Monday, June 04, 2007

Marley's "Exodus" reissue includes flashdrive edition

June 4, 2007
Tiny Bit of Hardware With Marley Software

When reggae singer Bob Marley released “Exodus” in 1977, fans most likely bought it as a vinyl record, then over the decades went on to purchase it on CD or to download it. But those same boomers now can buy the album in a format that will impress even their computer-using children: on a U.S.B. flash drive.

For the 30th anniversary of “Exodus,” which Time magazine called the best album of the 20th Century, Island Records, a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group, produced 4,000 of the gizmos, which are loaded not only with the original 10 songs but also with additional tracks and concert video footage of Marley, who died in 1981. The memory sticks, which plug in to a computer’s U.S.B. ports, will be priced at $44.99.

The high price reflects not only the extra content on the memory stick, but also the fact that the stick itself can be reused for other purposes. U.S.B. flash drives are generally sold empty, for the purpose of transferring data from one computer to another, but with the Bob Marley U.S.B. stick — as with others that store music — the entertainment can be downloaded to a computer and the device wiped clean.

While the flash-drive format appears unlikely to reshape the recording industry anytime soon, a few bands are experimenting with it. Last year the Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies released its album “The Barenaked Ladies Are Me” on U.S.B. sticks along with CDs. So far the memory-stick version, at $25, has sold nearly 1,000 copies in North America, compared with 166,000 CDs, which cost $18.98.

“By no means is it overtaking the traditionalists, but it’s a good start,” said Adam Smith, who manages artists at the Nettwerk Music Group, the band’s Canadian label. On recent tours, the Barenaked Ladies have been recording live performances and making them available on U.S.B. sticks at concert sites right after the last song is played. So far the band has sold about 3,000, for $40 each.

That is more expensive than a CD, but buying music on a flash drive is akin to buying a Big Mac on a piece of Fiestaware. Mr. Smith pointed out that, unlike CDs, once the songs on a flash drive are transferred to a computer, they can be erased from the device, which can then be used to store data. Some flash drives sell for more than $30.

“Once you upload the music to your computer, you have a piece of hardware,” Mr. Smith said. “If you’re buying a U.S.B. stick, the cost is not so much different to buy it loaded with music from your favorite band.” ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN

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