Music Trend: Video Games Thrill the Radio Star ; in an Effort to Grab Young Ears, Music Industry Uses Games to Launch Bands

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Perfect marriages in the music world usually involve attractive country-and-western singers or MTV-groomed pop stars. But one of the best unions in the business right now isn't likely to attract the paparazzi - unless they have PlayStation.

Video games are proving to be a good partner for a struggling industry eager to find new ways to appeal to young people who would rather pirate music off the Internet than pay for it.

Million-selling games are boosting sales, launching musical careers, and persuading skittish record executives that not all technology is bad for business.

"It's fishing where the fish are," says Dave Kusek, associate vice president at Berklee College of Music in Boston. "The best way to reach [the youth market] today is through video games and the Internet."

Now that video games are mainstream, they've gained the heft to reach coveted markets - often edging out radio as a marketing tool. A survey by New York marketing firm ElectricArtists earlier this year found that among its sample of video game consumers ages 13 to 32, 40 percent had bought a CD after hearing it in a video game.

Electronic Arts, a Redwood City, Calif.-based video-game company, is a pioneer in making deals that blend new music and video games. Where once it had to go looking for music, now labels are making house calls.

Its bestselling football game, "Madden," for example, has become the "American Bandstand" of the video-game world. For the 2004 version, released in August, the company was offered more than 2,000 songs for the 23 slots available on the game.

The interest is understandable. Factoring in things like the millions of copies sold and the number of hours people will play it, "a song in Madden hypothetically will get over 500 million spins, which is close to, if not beats, the No. 1 record in America when it comes to the number of impressions," explains Steve Schnur, worldwide executive of Music for Electronic Arts.

Music has been part of video games for years, becoming more common in the mid-1990s, when CD-based game consoles came on the scene. Companies often have created their own music in-house, or licensed songs from back catalogs. But in the past two or three years the use of popular music - particularly current songs - has taken off.

Makers of video games also are going beyond just licensing music as background for their sports and adventure games. This week, Square Enix launched a radio station on America Online featuring only the music from its series of "Final Fantasy" games. Other innovations include music video games like "FreQuency" and "Amplitude," which allow people to remix their favorite songs, and games like "Def Jam Vendetta," which not only has rappers Method Man, Redman, and DMX on the soundtrack, but features them as characters in the wrestling game. …