Wannabe rock stars everywhere are about to live the dream -- albeit vicariously. And investors get to profit from the music mania.

Video game designer Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI) just announced another installment of its ultra-popular Guitar Hero franchise, built around the material and career of rock legends Aerosmith. Follow the band from its early days to sold-out stadiums, rocking all the way. Guitar Hero III players get a free download of "Sweet Emotion" if they act quickly; the download window is open for only three days.

Aerosmith has a history of livin' on the edge and using unusual moves to enhance its brand. The 1986 rap-rock comeback hit "Walk This Way" springs to mind -- that track arguably helped hip-hop skip over into mainstream culture. In 2001, the band put "Jaded" up for download from its website before releasing the single. That was way before Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) made it cool to download music, and before Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS) turned legit. Stepping aboard the music-themed video game bandwagon in a big way makes sense for an opportunistic and wildly popular outfit like Aerosmith.

The group has sold more than 150 million albums, dwarfing even the impressive download figures that Guitar Hero and Rock Band -- developed by Viacom (NYSE: VIA) and distributed by Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) -- can boast. I foresee a virtuous circle, where band fans buy the game and game fans buy Aerosmith albums, boosting sales and fan loyalty for both mediums.

This is how it's done. Draw the kids into a uniquely interactive music experience, and they will happily pay much more for the game, accessories, and related downloads than they ever would for DRM-laden downloads or inconvenient physical CDs.

If this game sells -- and there's really no reason why it wouldn't -- other bands will line up to catch some of that bottled lightning while it's fresh. It's already happening, actually. Metallica is doing amazing business with its Rock Band downloads, and Nirvana's Nevermind is set to explode on the other side, as the band signed the entire album over to Rock Band.

I'm not cryin' over Aerosmith. It's just that I see a new music industry rising up to eat the rich, old guard.

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