Billboard Bits: Springsteen, The Matrix, Handy Awards

Bruce Springsteen aids Asbury Park, N.J., The Matrix signs a recording contract and performances from the Handy Awards will be released on CD.

BruceBruce Springsteen has extended his support of his adopted New Jersey hometown of Asbury Park through a pair of contests designed to draw visitors to the beleaguered seaside destination. Fans who spend $10 with participating merchants and on the beach boardwalk July 26-30 will be entered into two drawings for a host of Springsteen-related prizes.

The grand prize in each raffle will be a pair of tickets to the Aug. 31 finale of Springsteen's 10-show run at Giants Stadium, backstage passes and an opportunity to meet the artist. Others will win autographed tour books or tickets to the Aug. 31 show. Details and a list of participating merchants are listed on

Springsteen has been a long supporter of revitalization efforts in the town, where he performed often as he was climbing the ladder of success. He has frequently staged concerts there to benefit local organizations, and last summer gave NBC's "Today" host Matt Lauer a tour of the town during a special broadcast that launched his latest album, "The Rising" (Columbia).

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

The Matrix has signed a recording deal with Columbia Records. The production/songwriting team of Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock -- which has penned hits for Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears and Liz Phair, among others -- will release its label debut in spring 2004. The team is currently holding auditions for two lead vocalists.

In the meantime, the Matrix will continue to work with other acts.
As previously reported, it recently took part in projects by David Bowie and the Mooney Suzuki.

-- Melinda Newman, L.A.

BonnieTone-Cool Records will issue "Live at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards, Vol. 1" on Oct. 7. The set will be the first-ever release of live performances from the Handys.

The album will include tracks by Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal, Bobby Rush, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Deborah Coleman & Bernard Allison, Paul Rishell & Annie Raines, and the late Luther Allison and Rufus Thomas.

The Handys, which honor excellence in the blues field, are presented annually in Memphis by the Blues Foundation.

-- Chris Morris, L.A.