What next for the not so humble mobile ringtone?
Source: New Media Age
Ringtone piracy and cover versions
were two of the key areas of debate at last week's Mobile Entertainment Market (MEM)
show at London's Business Design Centre.
In the week that saw the launch of the first ringtone chart, produced in
association with MEM co-host the Mobile Entertainment Forum. it was fitting that
most of the discussion at the mobile music track of the event centred around the
humble ringtone--or, as speakers were at pains to point out, not so humble, as
it morphs into what the industry hopes will be even more lucrative formats such
as truetones and ringback tones.
A survey last week from Alatto Technologies found that 37% of 15-49-year-olds
said they would subscribe to a ringback tone service. At MEM, the first and
biggest provider of ringback tones. Korean company Widerthan, reported that
they're now a 120m business for Korean operator SK Telecom.
Interestingly, given a presentation by Orange titled 'Operator's role--bitpipe
or brand', Jonathan Kim, VP of marketing at Widerthan, reported Korean operators
are fast moving into MP3 delivery, wishing to become MP3 providers both in
mobile and online. The key to driving take-up of ringback tones, said Kim is
"integrating advanced feature sets such as gifting and copying".
Truetones were also a hot topic of debate. Or should that be realtones? Or even
Caller Tunes. The mobile industry has never been shy about using abstract
descriptions and acronyms to confuse the consumer. The lack of one standard name
for this next-generation ringtone product was thought by many to be one of the
stumbling blocks in its adoption by consumers.
"We're already seeing very steady take-up of truetones," said Dominic Pride,
head of mobile at Frukt. "But all the different names are one of the problems in
taking this to market. Last year we saw a major flip from standard to polyphonic
ringtones. It would be nice to think that with the premium on truetones this
could happen again, but we need industry consensus around a single name."
Piracy is a subject that haunts the mobile music industry. The 'Napsterisation'
of mobile can still strike fear into the music industry executive. Truetones
could be its next potential victim, suggested a panel of industry experts.
"If the installed base of phones with open operating systems keeps growing,
truetones could quickly become pirate tones," said Zelos Group lead analyst
Seamus McAteer. "You can burn a CD and upload it to the phone. People will find
hacks for DRM systems and resent having to pay for the same music twice."
Ian James, MD at Chrysalis Mobile, suggested media owners would have a role to
play here. "You need to integrate it into other editorial content, so they can
buy a song they're listening to on the radio, for example."
Cover-version truetones were another stimulating area of discussion. Cover
versions have long been used in the music and ad industries, and many believed
these offered a compelling alternative to costly offerings from major labels.
"This is a real threat," said James, explaining that high-quality content and
clever marketing were the answer. "We have to stop thinking about the product
and start thinking about the consumer. If they choose that route we can't stop
them. We just need to place our content in the right place at the right time.
People will flock to brands for quality content."