Rockers Matchbox Twenty join the USB revolution

The ubiquitous USB flash drive is playing a new song.

Fans use them to transport music, photos, documents and other data. Now musicians and record labels are getting into the act.

The latest: Matchbox Twenty's new album, Exile on Mainstream, is being sold on a USB bracelet. Available exclusively at Best Buy, the $35 item includes all 17 songs from the album (released Oct. 2), music video How Far We've Come, another video with band interviews, a digital booklet with album art and other band items to customize your computer.

"I just think it's neat," says lead singer Rob Thomas. "It's really fun knowing how much is inside that wristband."

Universal Serial Bus drives have become commonly used as novelty and promotional items. When inserted into a USB slot on a computer, the content can be downloaded or run on the computer. Storage capacity ranges from 64 megabytes to 8 gigabytes.

Matchbox Twenty's management got the idea from a similar project that lets Willie Nelson concertgoers buy a USB bracelet that contains a downloaded version of that night's concert. (Some are available online at stores.allaccesstoday.com/willie.)

The band liked the idea, Thomas says. "Each time we've put out a record, we've been presented with new challenges of what we can do in the marketplace and how people are getting music and making it part of their lives."

Matchbox Twenty will sell bracelets with live concert recordings during its 2008 tour. Austin-based All Access Today, which works with the band and Nelson, also will release Ringo Starr's new album, due in January, on a USB bracelet and is in talks with all the major record labels.

"During the touring season next summer, there are probably going to be 15 to 20 tours doing this," says the company's Jake Crownover.

It's not just bracelets. The Bob Marley Fan Club is selling a limited edition 30th-anniversary version of Exodus on a USB drive with videos and other content with a carrying case as part of the $45 membership at bobmarley.com.

Not all digital music experiments work. The Rolling Stones' last album, A Bigger Bang, released on a $39.95 microSD (a flash memory card format for use in portable devices), was not a hit, says Paul Resnikoff, founder and editor DigitalMusicNews.com.

Matchbox Twenty's bracelets are innovative, if pricey. "Everyone is trying to figure out how the new music fan wants music, and this very well could be it," Resnikoff says. "It is a way to connect with a digital experience."

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