Ding Ding! Crazy Frog Vs Personalized Music Ring Tones Are Big Business for Wireless, Music Industries.
Byline: Beatrice E. Garcia
When Margaret Miller's cellphone
blares the DMX tune X Is Gonna Give It To Ya, she knows it's her kids or her mom
calling. A clip from Crazy in Love by Beyonce chimes out when her niece calls
"because she's a crazy girl." "I'm a music person," says Miller, who lives in
"Everything in my life is about music." She is among the millions who have
personalized their cellphones with ring tones, snippets of music programmed into
the phones to play when certain callers ring them up. Cellphone ringers can
range from the highbrow, such as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, to the lowbrow,
such as the theme to SpongeBob SquarePants, or dog barks and frog croaks.
Ring tones come in just about every genre of music, from alternative and country
to hip-hop, jazz and rock. University fight songs are a wildly popular category.
And while some see ring tones as being frivolous and unnecessary -- and
sometimes downright annoying -- these tiny recordings are huge moneymakers for
the wireless carriers and the music industry.
Last year, sales of mobile-phone ringers jumped 40 percent to $3.5 billion
Ring-tone sales accounted for more than 10 percent of the $32.2 billion in music
sales around the globe last year, according to The Arc Group, a London-based
telecommunications consulting firm.
Says Richard Jesty, an analyst at the Arc Group: "Over time, the novelty will
wear off, but not yet." He expects that sales will remain strong through 2008,
eventually hitting $5.2 billion worldwide.
Mobile-phone users can buy ring tones from their carrier's website or go to
various websites that offer a variety of downloads for cellphones, including
ring tones, games, screen savers and wallpaper.
Wireless phones with Internet access can download ring tones directly and put
them to use in about a minute. These phones usually can play polyphonic ring
tones -- which sound more than one note simultaneously -- rather than the beep,
beep of monophonic ring tones.
Some older model phones not plugged into the Internet can still use ring tones.
Usually, the ringer is sent to the phone as a text message.
When Mike Zayas' best buddy puts in a call, the ringer plays music from the Lord
of the Rings trilogy because that is his friend's favorite movie.
When Mike Lanman's boss calls, the ringer on his cellphone plays the theme from
the Clint Eastwood classic The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It's Outkast's Hey Ya
when his 13-year-old daughter calls.
Lanman, who is Verizon Wireless' Florida president, admits to "ring tone
sickness," with about 25 ringers on his phone. And although he works for the
carrier, he says he has paid for most of them.
Ring tones are a bright spot for the music industry, which continues to see CD
sales decline and file-sharing remain popular despite a mountain of lawsuits by
the recording industry. The revenue from ring tones is usually divided among the
record label, the artists and wireless phone carriers.
Consumers are buying ringers for themselves and giving them as gifts, via gift
cards or by sending them directly through e-mail or text messages to friends'
ClearSky is now working with Clear Channel Communications, which operates 1,200
radio stations around the country, to offer ringers patterned on their
music-station formats, such as Top 40 and hip-hop.
And don't think ringers are the last piece of melodic innovation your cellphone
will see. Somewhere on the horizon are ringbacks -- bits of melody you can
program your phone to play instead of the ordinary "ringing" signal when you
call family members, friends or business contacts.