The Backstreet Boys Are On Line 2 - InformationWeek

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The Backstreet Boys Are On Line 2

Say what you like about boy bands, but they are among the best examples of branding around. Artistdirect Inc., an online portal of sorts for fans of recording artists, wants to bring that branding into your home just in time for Valentine's Day.

For $4.95, teens, er, IT execs, can send one of six recorded phone greetings from the Backstreet Boys to a friend. Added to the end of the call is a personalized message giving away the sender. The recipient can respond via phone or the Web.

The Backstreet Boys call picks up on group's latest single, "The Call." So not only are fans developing a pseudopersonal relationship with the artists, they're also hearing a new song that it's hoped they'll then want to buy. "You're tying everything together," says Richard Hart, VP of artist relations at Artistdirect, an online network that provides the latest news on recording artists and lets fans interact with musical artists via member clubs, buy merchandise, and get free music downloads. "You're using the Web site to promote a particular song and giving a personalized call from the artist. It's all part of the marketing package."

This seemingly kooky idea is indicative of how the music business is redefining itself. Not too long ago, the Napster phenomenon had recording execs and artists up in arms over copyright violations and fear of technology putting them out of business. But it's turning out to have just the opposite effect, Hart says. Technology could be used to create an affinity that increases sales of both albums and merchandise.

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