Around 350,000 young people have been invited to enter a project to find new music talent in a bid to alleviate the deep crisis afflicting the Spanish biz.

The Mad Sound Project was presented Oct. 5 in Madrid by EMI Music Spain president Simone Bosé, leading Spain-based English producer Nigel Walker, and executives of the Madrid regional government and the region's biggest savings bank, Caja Madrid.

In an initial stage, Mad Sound Project will be open only to the 350,000 holders of the regional government's Youth Card, which is available from Caja Madrid branches for €4 ($5.60). The Youth Card gives access to discounts in more than 1,700 stores in the Madrid region including those selling cultural and musical products.

Bands and solo artists can enter the competition until Jan. 29, 2011, by sending a recording of no more than two songs to a dedicated website. Walker will head a jury of established artists and EMI executives to select six finalists, who will perform in an early 2011 concert with established artists.

The winning groups will have two songs each recorded by Walker, who in his 15 years as a producer in Spain has won three Latin Grammys. He has produced established Spanish artists such as El Canto del Loco, La Oreja de Van Gogh, Hombre G, Estopa and Pereza. Zenttric, a new band produced by Walker, played three songs at the presentation.

Before moving to Spain, Walker was Sir George Martin's chief engineer for 11 years, and worked with artists such as Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, and Cheap Trick.

"EMI and I spoke several times about how we can tackle the crisis," says Walker. "I convinced them that there were several bands sitting at home with one good song. The idea is to look for new talent, by taking the barriers down."

Bosé says, "This is an initiative to help ease the music crisis here by locating new talent."