Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas sat down with Billboard’s Antony Bruno to discuss the band’s partnership with AT&T, mobile music and the state of digital distribution today.

How did you get so interested in mobile as a means of getting your music out?

I don’t think it’s anything that’s super intuitive or cutting-edge of us to notice that more and more people are starting to experience music that way. Just like it once was the idea of the computer. There was a time when it seemed like a foreign idea that people were going to listen to music on their computer and now that’s the way most people do it. We see a trend of that happening with mobile networks as well. Phones are getting better memory, so it seems to be the way that (fans) can see media, get media, send media back and forth. It seems like a no brainer.

Mobile has been a pretty hip-hop/urban centric format. As a pop/rock artists, do you feel you need to approach mobile differently?

I don’t think so. That music’s better aimed at that format because it’s all about getting to the hook really quick. There are certain hooks that make a great ringtone and make an immediately identifiable noise. But a lot of bands, like ours, you have to listen to the verse and wait for it and get to the chorus. There’s a journey you have to take to get it. Sometimes those songs don’t format as well. I always think its weird when people have ringtones of our ballads like “Ever the Same” as their ringtone.

How’d you get involved with the AT&T/Napster announcement? Was it just good timing for promotion around the new album?

Partially. Any artist, especially in this day and age, is lucky to get an opportunity like that. There are a lot of opportunities when you put out a record that come to you, and a lot of ways to market your music and let people know you have a record coming out. Bottom line, you have to be kind of a salesman. But we’re not going to do any Honda commercials. To find somebody like (AT&T and Napster) that are a part of the way people listen to and receive music makes it a big deal for us. The only corporate types of sponsorships and partnerships that we wanted to team up with were people who we thought would be responsible in the coming generations for how people get their music.

What other mobile activities you doing?

It’s a constant upgrade of moving through technology. It started with having a website where you could talk to your fans after a show. We’re really excited about working with AT&T in the future of this record and this tour. To be able to stream live versions of our shows or contests to win tickets to the show.

Sometime I go home or to the hotel after a show and the kids have already got some of the show up on the website that they got that night (from their phones). That’s going on regardless. To think that there’s a) anything wrong with it or b) anything that can be done to get around it is kind of silly. You’re just going to get dusted away with the dinosaurs if you’re not a part of it.

What’s next with mobile?

One of the things we’re most excited about is to talk to the people at AT&T and bend their ear and get some ideas of how we can get the most use of what’s going on. It’s important for us let them know that we’re on board to be guinea pigs. I think it’s great to be the first person to do anything.

For a period of like eight years it was pretty stagnant and pretty hard to be the first to do anything at all. Now there are all these new opportunities that are popping up, and I think that’s an exciting thing. I see the possibilities of this technology and how we can put this into a live show setting. You could work out w/ AT&T to have special versions of songs or songs that are only available through that network.

You seem very personally engaged in all of this.

When we put out our first record in ‘96 we had bumper stickers an cassettes. We didn’t have Web sites. Each time we’ve done a project, it’s been a completely different landscape. We weren’t in the dinosaur age and then all of a sudden in the technical age. We were able to plateau at each level and get a sense of the importance of what that medium could be for us as our connection to fans. We’ve been able to watch this grow, and hopefully grow with it. We’re realizing there’s ways you can do all these things and not compromise what you consider to be your integrity or not compromise the music. In fact it only enhances that.