Unveil promotion for the VCast Music service.

Verizon Wireless and MySpace on Wednesday (Feb. 15) will unveil a contest to give one unsigned band the chance to release their music on Verizon's VCast music service. The contest, named "Calling All Bands," is open to any unsigned band with a MySpace profile.

From Feb. 15 through March 1, eligible artists can submit an original song via a link on MySpace. MySpace music editors will then select 15 semi-finalists. The MySpace community will listen and vote online for their favorites—narrowing the field to five. Verizon and MySpace will choose the winner on March 29 and Verizon Wireless will release the winning song on the VCast Music wireless download music service. Additionally, Verizon will work with the artist to produce a music video released on the VCast video service, as well as a ringtone and ringback tone of the winning song.

While primarily a promotional effort for Verizon’s new music service, the contest also raises interesting questions over wireless operators future role in the music industry.

Record labels have recently tapped mobile ringtones and exclusive downloads to promote both their emerging and established acts in advance of new releases. Warner Music Group largely credits ringtones for driving awareness and excitement for Madonna’s hit record “Confessions on a Dance Floor.” The label released the single “Hung Up” as a ringtone in advance of the album’s street date. EMI/Virgin artists Dem Franchize Boyz sold more than a million master ringtones of four different tracks from their album On Top Of Our Game before the album bowed on Feb. 7. It is expected to have a strong showing on the charts this week.

But this is the first time that a wireless carrier has gone directly to unsigned artists with an offer to promote their music via purely wireless channels. The contest also showcases the great marketing potential of both social networking sites and wireless networks. MySpace boasts 600,000 registered bands on its site, all vying for the attention of some 54 million MySpace members. Verizon meanwhile has 51 million subscribers. While many of these don’t have the phones needed to access the VCast service yet, Verizon is gradually converting this base over to its advanced multimedia services.

Verizon hasn’t yet said if the contest will be just a one-off stunt or an ongoing program. “We’ll see how this one goes first,” a company spokesman says.