06:26 PM

MySpace, Verizon Music-Video Promotional Event Draws 4,300 Bands

The companies opened "Calling All Bands," a promotional contest, last month. They allowed any band with a MySpace profile--and without a record company deal--to enter.

More than 4,300 bands have been competing to release singles through Verizon Wireless' VCAST mobile phone service and – before signing with a record company.

Verizon and MySpace opened Calling All Bands, a promotional contest, last month. They allowed any band with a MySpace profile – and without a record company deal – to enter. The companies have narrowed the field to 15 bands and artists competing to be the first to release music and video downloads, ringtones and ringback tones through VCAST. They will announce five finalists Friday and select a winner on March 29.

The promotional event has drawn the attention of the recording industry, gaining coverage in Billboard, which reported that it marks the first time wireless carriers have gone directly to artists to market their music exclusively through mobile services. The contest comes at a time when the recording industry is under massive transformation, with new technology, Internet file sharing and the ability of new artists to reach a broad fan-base directly through the Web.

Jeff Nelson, of Verizon Wireless, said during an interview with TechWeb Monday that his company would assess the success of the contest as well as the success of its winner before deciding whether to hold more contests in the future. Either way, he said he does not think his company will change the industry.

"It's not going to become the way new acts are going to be discovered, but this is a unique opportunity to break through," he said.

Nelson said the contest is part of a larger effort by Verizon to reach "deeply into the youth market."

Rock, hip-hop, jazz, indie, pop, electronica and funk are among the styles performed by Calling All Bands' remaining competitors. Winners will receive Verizon services worth more than $3,000 for a year and be required to update their pages regularly. Fans are allowed to vote once a day on MySpace's Calling All Bands page.

VCAST delivers video, music and 3-D games over Verizon's wireless broadband and EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) 3G network. Verizon offers exclusive content through partnerships with MTV, Comedy Central and NewsCorp. Customers pay $15 monthly for access to more than 300 daily updated videos. Unlimited browsing of Verizon Wireless Mobile Web 2.0 is included. Premium content is available for an additional cost. Mobile phones' Get It Now virtual stores display programming options.

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