EA & Cherry Lane Take It To The Next LevelThe Madden publisher teams with Cherry Lane, a well-known music industry publisher, to form Next Level Music, which will seek out new bands and administer its existing music catalog. Electronic Arts today confirmed a deal that is unique among the game industry. The deal will see Electronic Arts and Cherry Lane Music Publishing forming a new joint venture, to be called Next Level Music. Next Level will, according to a statement to be released tomorrow, "sign established as well as emerging new artists, acquire publishing catalogs, produce original music, and further develop EAs rich catalog of music." According to an EA spokesperson, EA will promote the music through its games, while Cherry Lane Music Publishing will administer the compositions and master recordings worldwide. Cherry Lane owns approximately 100,000 copyrights to a wide variety of songs and is considered one of the largest independent music publishers in North America. Electronic Arts is, of course, the worlds biggest game publisher, and has increasingly used music to add polish, buzz, and, in general, greater appeal to the games it sells to a predominately male, music-savvy audience. Under the exclusive copublishing partnership, Next Level will also license EAs existing music assets to commercials, films, film trailers, ring tones, and other commercial media. The upshot of the deal is that Electronic Arts is getting into the music business in a way no other game company has yet to. No longer a mere licensor of music, Electronic Arts, through Next Level, will become an owner of music that will ultimately find its way into its games. At the same time, the deal with Cherry Lane gives EA the standing to be a more sophisticated licensor of the tracks and content it will soon own. As games continue to attract the key demographic of 18- to 34-year-old men, the relationship between the games and music industries has become far more complex and intertwined, with games now viewed as an important vehicle for introducing music to that audience. In reporting on the news this morning, Michael Dowling, general manager of Nielsen Interactive told The New York Times, "[Games are] becoming in many ways what radio had been during our era. [Gamers] feel in some ways that they are discovering these artists and helping to push them out into the public." The deal was spearheaded by Cherry Lane Music president Aida Gurwicz and EAs Steve Schnur. Schnur has led the efforts of EA TRAX, an Electronic Arts division that he says will not be affected by the new joint venture.