Beastie Boys, Korn to Appear on There.com

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Ever wanted to hang out with The Beastie Boys or Korn? Members of teen-friendly virtual world There.com will soon be able to virtually get up close and personal with those musicians and others through a deal the world's creator Makena Technologies Inc. has struck with Capitol Music Group.

The companies announced the first phase of what they expect to be a significant, long-term partnership between Makena and the EMI Group PLC business unit on Thursday. They didn't reveal any financial details about the deal.

As record companies search for new ways to make money while protecting their intellectual property, they're becoming more interested in the possibilities of virtual worlds, according to Ben Richardson, vice president of business development at There.com.

Over the next few months, specially created avatars of Capitol Music Group artists including The Beastie Boys, Korn, Lily Allen, MIMS and Yellowcard will come into There.com to meet and be quizzed by their fans. All of the musicians have new albums coming out and have also been chosen to appeal to the virtual world's inhabitants. There.com has around one million members, 70 percent of whom are aged between 13 and 26 years old, according to Richardson. About 46 percent of the user base is female, he added.

Rap artist MIMS will be the first to make a There.com appearance on July 10. Members of the virtual world will receive an invitation to the meet-and-greets, which will take place at a particular time.

Makena is building ten virtual nightclubs in There.com, each able to hold a maximum of 50 fans, Richardson said. The bands' avatars will teleport between the nightclubs over the course of an hour to an hour and half so that fans can ask them questions and view their videos. Makena is also creating interactive kiosks throughout There.com where fans can buy both real world CDs and DVDs by the musicians as well as virtual band merchandise including T-shirts and posters.

Any object created for There.com has to be approved by a product submission review board, according to Richardson. The board checks that the object is appropriate for a PG-13 audience, that it doesn't infringe on any copyright and that it works correctly. In the case of a virtual T-shirt, the clothing would contain no objectionable words or images, no pirated logos and would fit avatars properly.

Initially, the meetings between fans and bands will be conducted through text messaging, Richardson said. In future, There.com might use the world's voice chat feature and the bands may perform live music as well, he added.

Being a PG-13 world, There.com has already some measures in place that it can call upon to avoid any band and fan interchanges getting out of hand. For instance, there are controls on extreme language so that if you try to type an obscenity into the world's text chat, it shows up as asterisks. There.com also doesn't allow nudity or porn and is able to eject any member who's causing trouble. Makena has the ability to block the hardware ID on a troublesome member's computer so that, once ejected from the virtual world, they can't re-enter under a different identity.

Through an earlier partnership with MTV Networks, which resulted in the creation of the Virtual Hills and Virtual Laguna Beach worlds, Makena has already been involved in hosting meet-and-greets with some actors and musicians. Members of the band Korn were able to take time out from rehearsing and log onto four laptops to meet fans virtually recently in one of the MTV worlds, Richardson said.

Looking ahead, as well as bringing in more musicians, There.com may well host actors and other celebrities for virtual meet-and-greets, even U.S presidential hopefuls eager to garner the youth vote, he added.

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