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Net surfers are getting the blues.

House of Blues Entertainment-an umbrella company with its own record label, TV production house and chain of four blues clubs-opened a new-media division last week with a live Internet celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, sponsored by Coca-Cola Co., Walt Disney Records, Silicon Graphics, Sprint, Apple Computer, Pacific Bell and CBS Radio.

The celebration was the first in an every-other-monthly series of live Internet broadcasts dubbed House of Blues Backstage Pass. The event included speeches and concerts from performers such as Stevie Wonder and Public Enemy's Chuck D., information about the International House of Blues Foundation (a non-profit House of Blues affiliate) and transcripts of the Rev. King's speeches.

Although the live broadcast was only available to those with access to the MBone, a high-tech portion of the Internet, House of Blues is translating the simulcast into video and audio files accessible on three popular World Wide Web sites through February:, and

In addition to the Backstage Pass series, House of Blues, partially owned by comedian Dan Aykroyd, rock band Aerosmith, Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Isaac Tigrett and the private investment wing of Harvard University, is developing its own Web site.

"We want to use developing technology as a distribution method to allow people to come in and take part in our House of Blues brand," said Marc Schiller, VP of the new-media division. "Advertisers and sponsors can have a real role in giving the online and Internet communities what they crave-a lot of educational and entertaining information-while at the same time getting their brand name and messages out in front of a huge market."

Users clicking on Pacific Bell or CBS Radio logos in the House of Blues areas will jump to each individual company's Internet site. Icons for sponsors like Coca-Cola, which has yet to create a site, will simply "explode" upon clicking, growing to full screen size.

"We sponsored House of Blues on the live Internet celebration not only because they are one of our important customers, but we have always been an active supporter of the Martin Luther King Center," said a Coca-Cola spokesman. "We'd certainly welcome any other opportunities to work with the House of Blues, especially if it'd allow us to communicate with our consumers in ways that are new and different."

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