L.A.-based Vivendi Universal Games, the video game arm of French media conglomerate Vivendi Universal S.A., is trolling social networking Web site MySpace.com.

But unlike most of the 55 million users on the site, the company's not looking for a date. It is hoping to get lucky, however. It's looking for an unsigned band to record tracks for an upcoming video game titled, "Scarface:The World Is Yours."

Game companies have been tapping pop acts to score their games for the past couple of years trending away from the electronica-heavy theme songs or anonymous rock music that gamers put up with in the 1990s. Sports-themed games often feature popular hip-hop acts, and skateboarding games have featured punk and indie rock bands. Vivendi is hoping to draw fans from the wildly popular MySpace site, now a part of the News Corp. empire, by following the cult-of-personality that many unknown bands are able to create for themselves in the virtual world. They may be heading back to the roots of video game music when unknown, semi-anonymous musicians created unforgettable themes to games such as "Super Mario Brothers," or the "Legend of Zelda" but with a next-generation twist.

A song in a movie can put a band's name on the pop-culture map, and games are fast becoming a platform to launch a group's career. Vivendi Universal promises to put the winning band, and the two runners-up, on stage as opening acts for the concert during next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the mega-trade show for the video game industry held May 9-11 in Los Angeles.

Instant Idol
Though mobile entertainment company InfoSpace Inc. is headquartered in Seattle, its L.A. office keeps people entertained. The company has teamed up with Fox's "American Idol" series to help satisfy audiences' two major cravings: cell phones and "Idol" time. InfoSpace is making Idol contestants' performances available as ring tones (to Cingular Wireless customers only), downloadable a mere three hours after the live show. As soon as the show airs, InfoSpace's L.A. office pulls audio clips and digitally re-masters them for a cell phone ring tones.

"Normally it would take between three and 10 days for it to get out into the market," said Mary Stuyvesant, vice president of media partnerships for InfoSpace. "And with an original recording, from the time an artist records the album, it can be months before that ring tone sees the light of day."

Fox Broadcasting Co., through its partnership with Cingular, wants to capitalize on the fleeting popularity of its idols. But showbiz on the mobile stage can be just as harsh as the "Idol" judges. Once a contestant is voted off the show, his or her ring tone is removed from the download list.

Cingular charges standard fees, about $2.49 per ring tone.

The instant-Idol-ring-tone promotion launched in March.

The companies declined to provide a tally of the numbers of downloads partly, Stuyvesant explained, because the contest is still ongoing and they don't want to reveal which contestants are most popular with cell-phone-toting fans. (Viewers vote for their favorite "Idol" each week via text message.)

InfoSpace has about 115 employees in L.A. The office is focused on music and entertainment in mobile services.

Staff Reporter Hilary Potkewitz can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226, or by e-mail at hpotkewitz@labusinessjournal.com .

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