While the Grateful Dead didn’t mind recordings being made of
their concerts, most musicians are a little less enthralled with the idea.

Not Rob Thomas. Whether it’s at his solo shows or his gigs
with Matchbox 20, fans can pick up a copy of the live show they just attended
on the way out the door – and do with them whatever they’d like.Robthomas1

The concerts, which are sold on Flash Micro SD wristbands,
are just one of the digital tools Thomas is using to promote himself and his
music these days, making him one of the industry leaders of digital marketing.

“Fans on the Web site are trading their favorite nights,” he
says. “Some fans have gone so far as to make their version of a live greatest
hits album. When you see that sort of application, you get closer to your
fans.”

The wristbands not only bring in a little extra income, they
help fight the inevitable. With cameras and recording equipment so small today,
bootlegging is one of the facts of concert life. Fighting it is essentially
repeating the industry’s folly with downloaded music in that it can alienate
fans.  Embracing (and quietly
controlling) it, though, establishes a bond.

“With YouTube, you can’t shy away from bootlegs,” says
Thomas. “I’ve done a show and on the bus, I’m able to see parts of it on
YouTube before we leave the venue. [But] I’ve got a great band and I’m proud of
what we do. When people see it on YouTube, they say ‘oh I’d like to go see them
live’.”

Beyond the wristbands, Thomas has also established a
partnership with Research in Motion to launch the Blackberry’s first mobile
artist app. And he is the premier artist on Atlantic Records’ Fanbase app for
the iPhone, where fans can listen to clips, read lyrics, leave him voicemails,
chat with other fans and see a feed of both official and unofficial news and
photos. Coming soon are a pair of games: “Inner Beauty” and “Reverse
Barbershop.”

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