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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 08:11 GMT
Musicians vie for mobile success
By Elizabeth Biddlecombe
in San Francisco

Aroarah are one of the 15 finalists
Fifteen aspiring bands are bidding to have a song released on a national mobile phone network in the US before they even have a record deal.

They have been selected from a total of 4,033 entrants in a contest being held by US mobile operator Verizon Wireless and online community service MySpace.com.

It is now up to the MySpace community, which totals 37.7 million unique visitors worldwide according to audience measurement company ComScore Networks, to vote for their favourites.

The five bands to receive the most votes will be announced on the Calling All Bands page on MySpace.com on 24 March. But the final choice will be up to Verizon and MySpace.com, with the ultimate winner to be announced on 29 March.

The winning band will see their song released as a download on the music service on VCast, the third-generation mobile service from Verizon.

It will also be made into a ringtone and a ringback tone. A music video will be made of the song which people can see either on MySpace.com or on VCast phones.

In return the winner will be required to update the contest page on a regular basis with blog entries, photos and videos but will get Verizon services and devices worth $3,500 for a year as part of their prize.

Amazing exposure

Some of the semi-finalists already tour, have put out CDs or music videos. All are already established on MySpace.com.

One of them, an all-girl punk band called Aroarah, has toured on the well-known punk Warped Tour and has been featured in TV adverts for US mobile operator Sprint Nextel and clothing company Converse.

Verizon shop in the US
Verizon will make the song available as a download
They are in the middle of looking for a record label, according to Lydia Gavin, lead vocalist and guitarist in the band.

Winning the competition would bring Aroarah "an amazing amount of exposure", says Gavin.

But Gavin recognises that putting out a single on VCast will not replace a traditional record deal, not least because "you can contact so many more people than have just the one phone plan".

Verizon started its VCast music download service at the beginning of the year. It sells music downloads for a PC for 99 cents, and $1.99 for downloads via the phone.

It is not clear how many people use the new service. One industry analyst, Lewis Ward of International Data Corporation, estimates that there are just 500,000 VCast customers out of a total of 51.3 million Verizon users in total.

Reaching fans

There is considerable interest from independent musicians and music outlets in putting music out on mobile phones. People can already share their music from phone to phone, as an MP3 file using the short-range wireless Bluetooth technology.

However there is nothing that allows the same kind of worldwide sharing of music from phone-to-phone across different operator networks in the same way that the fixed internet allows.

In contrast MySpace has become invaluable to musicians both well established and undiscovered as a way to interact with their fans and make their music available for listening.

Aroarah uses its MySpace page to keep in touch with fans as far from the band's native California as Germany and the Philippines.

"MySpace is an amazing tool," says Gavin who, along with her three other band members, has a personal page on the site in addition to the Aroarah page.

Over the past month, the website, now a part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has been taking steps to make its services available via mobile operators in the US, and it is rumoured to be considering a mobile phone service of its own.

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