June 26, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Web-savvy musicians take note: The old-fashioned music-talent search just got a cybertwist with Sony Music Online’s Battle of the Bands, which launched May 5 at the label’s supersite (http://www.sonymusic.com). “We’re always looking for great artists and bands,” says Sony Music Entertainment’s Fred Ehrlich. “At the website we can solicit talent from across the country.”

A top secret (for now) judging panel of industry pros will decide who gets top prize—a recording contract for a band, plus the chance to lay down tracks. “To have one of Sony’s producers do a demo would be amazing,” says guitarist Adam Wolfe Lerner, whose New York-based band, the Booda Velvets, has entered a tape in the contest. “We need [industry] feedback. There’s no magic formula.”

The Battle is open to unsigned U.S. bands, with entries accepted until Aug. 3; winners will be named in October. And yes, hopefuls must submit tapes via old-fashioned snail mail. Suggested cover tune: “(Web) Surfin’ U.S.A.”

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