NBA 2K5 Soundtrack Goes Hip-HopIn its most ambitious cross-marketing program to date, ESPN Videogames is featuring more than three dozen original or licensed tracks from 22 top hip-hop acts in "NBA 2K5," a fall release for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. A companion soundtrack CD will be offered as a value-added gift with purchase at such retail chains as Electronics Boutique and GameStop. A major-label radio promotion will target 20 primary markets, and a 45-date tour will feature key game/soundtrack artists. Plus, a film crew and traveling audio studio will accompany the tour to capture material for a DVD/CD package due early next year. "This is the first year we're licensing music and also commissioning original tracks for our games," ESPN Videogames marketing and promotions director Tim Rosa says. "It's not only our most ambitious 'multimedia' program for any game, but also one of the most innovative for the industry. "We're creating partnerships with artists by promoting them on our Web site, their CD and singles releases, tour updates and bios and pitching them to the ESPN Networks for use on their cable outlet stations." Contributing tracks to "NBA 2K5" are such acts as Del the Funky Homosapien (Heiro Imperium); Hazen Street, Holla Point and KillRadio (all on Epic/Sony); People Under the Stairs (Om); and Aesop Rock (Definitive Jux). The soundtrack also contains selections by Skillz, the Roots, Aceyalone & Madlib and Hieroglyphics featuring Goapele from the compilation "True Notes Vol. 1" (Okay Player/Decon). Among the acts writing tracks specifically for the game are Truck & Mack. PLAN WINS PRAISE ESPN's multimedia program has earned kudos from major and indie label execs, as well as featured artists. "Videogames and music are natural partners," Sony music licensing senior VP Paula Erickson says. She notes that new tracks like Hazen Street's "Back Home," Holla Point's "Ooh Ahh" and KillRadio's "Scavenger" "are the perfect complement to the fast-paced action of 'NBA 2K5.' " Erickson continues, "Since users play videogames multiple times, fans are exposed to tracks on a repeated basis, which helps create a strong sense of connection between our artists and a key audience. On the flip side, ESPN benefits from having great music from incredibly talented new artists ... This is a win-win for everyone involved." Rosa notes, "Sony already has licensed a lot of music to ESPN Networks. Their promotion and marketing people are very excited about 'NBA 2K5.' We're providing games for Sony radio contests and giveaways in the top 20 markets to support their artists, and will offer more games for other contests with retailers." Del the Funky Homosapien says, "I've always loved gaming, so it's only natural to be a part of 'ESPN NBA 2K5' as a character in the game. I've even got my own dream team. "It's also a kick to provide some of the soundtrack beats," he adds, "and to work together on the coming tour." The Champion Sound tour (aka Cali Comm 2K4) presented by ESPN Videogames kicks off Oct. 13 at the University of California-Santa Barbara. It comprises 45 stops, finishing Nov. 24 at San Francisco's historic Fillmore theater. In addition to the NBA, ESPN Videogames has interactive franchise rights from the National Football League ("NFL 2K5" was just released) and the National Hockey League ("NHL 2K5" is due this fall). "This is the deepest we've gone to date in creating music partnerships," ESPN's Rosa says. "We're also in discussions with other major and indie labels for promotional programs related to other franchise titles in the works."