Duo team on Virtual Concert Series

Tommy Mottola — who groomed the meteoric rise of the New Kids on the Block as chair and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment in the late ‘80s — is once again targeting teens and tweens by partnering with Planet Cazmo to support the game and social networking site’s Virtual Concert Series.

The record exec, whose Mottola Co. spans music, television, theater and fashion, told Daily Variety that Cazmo’s demo is “precisely the kind of thing” that the labels, advertisers and merchandisers “want and need.”

“They don’t know how to target this aud with the exception of Disney and that’s saturated at this point. And kids love to discover their own thing and not be told (what to buy) anymore.”

The kid-friendly Cazmo allows users to create their own avatar allowing them to wander through the virtual worlds of Planet Cazmo, organized for the most part by musical genres. Animated virtual concerts invite users into each musician’s store to shop for their gear (like Jay-Z style bling), buy branded merchandise, and link the user to such sites as iTunes to purchase tracks.

Think of it as Facebook with animation and no personal information, combined with a chat room and shopping mall.

Mottola and Planet Cazmo founder and CEO Mike Levine describe the site as picking up where Club Penguin leaves off. Club Penguin is the MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) site targeting 6-14-year olds that was bought by the Walt Disney Co. in 2007 for $350 million. “You’ve got this giant mass of kids that fill the gap between Club Penguin and MySpace and Facebook who are looking for the next big thing,” Levine said.

Mottola said he’s leveraging his resources and contacts he has nurtured over the past 30 years with the labels to supply talent to Cazmo’s virtual concert series, which has featured such acts as Soulja Boy, Jordin Sparks, Ciara and Kristina Debarge.

In addition, Island Def Jam and the Jive Label Group have joined Planet Cazmo’s growing roster of alliances that includes Interscope-Geffen and Epic Records to feed its Virtual Concert Series pipeline.

“Music is at the heart of of the Cazmo experience,” said Levine, “and our fans have loved the concerts we have done thus far. Our plan is to have a music event every week with branded virtual goods to sell.”

According to Mottola, Cazmo is dealing with two major merchandising companies, Signatures Network and Bravado, for brand sponsorships, and enjoys an ongoing relationship with AOL. “We also see this as a platform to break new acts,” he said.

“This is the most critical audience and I’ve catered to it for years,” added Mottola, who said that he and Cazmo will be announcing in the fall “some of the biggest stars in the world” to be inked for the site. “Down the road we’ll zero in on an older demographic.”

Added Levine: “One thing that’s totally in our plan is we’re going to age it up as our audience ages with us.”

Shannon Smith contributed to this report.

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