Billboard Bits: Usher, Ben Watt, Meat Loaf

News on Usher, Ben Watt, Meat Loaf

RockUsher has teamed with MasterCard International and BankFirst for the Usher Raymond IV Debit MasterCard. The card, which features a closeup of the artist's face on the front, allows users to prepay or store money in an account that can be accessed for purchases, bill payments or ATM cash withdrawals. Users will be charged a one-time sign-up fee of $9.95 and a $10.00 activation fee.

MasterCard will handle the card's customer protection for loss theft or fraud under the MasterCard Zero Liability program. BankFirst will issue the card and operate the financial accounts. Platinum Financial Group, an authorized representative of BankFirst, will handle product marketing.

In other Usher news, the singer's July 30 performance on ABC's "Good Morning America" drew a record audience of nearly 10,000 people to watch the free show at New York's Bryant Park. Usher begins a North American tour tomorrow (Aug. 5) at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va.

-- Carla Hay, N.Y.

RockBen Watt will launch a brief U.S. DJ tour Sept. 8 in New York. The five-date run comes in support of the former Everything But The Girl principal's "Buzzin' Fly Vol. 01: Replenishing Music for the Modern Soul" release.

Issued in April on his own Buzzin' Fly Records label and through Astralwerks in the United States, the set features the artist formerly known as Terrence Trent D'Arby, Sananda Maitreya, and remixes of Buzzin' Fly singles by Justin Martin, Cue and Soldiers Of Twilight.

Here are Watt's DJ dates:

Sept. 8: New York (Canal Room)
Sept. 9: Chicago (Smart Bar)
Sept. 10: San Francisco (DNA Lounge)
Sept. 11: Seattle (Chop Suey)
Sept. 12: Los Angeles (1650 Schrader)

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

RockMeat Loaf's Feb 20 and 22 performances in Melbourne are the basis for the upcoming live CD "Bat Out of Hell Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra" and the DVD "Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra." Both items will be released Sept. 14 via Sanctuary.

The CD comprises a complete performance of Loaf's 1977 breakthrough "Bat Out of Hell," including the title cut, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." The DVD features some of the same cuts, as well as "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" and "Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Fire)."

DVD bonus features include a Q&A with the artist, a commentary track, a photo gallery and a backstage featurette.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.