Music and phones to the ears: the move from ringtones to song downloads may be a big leap, but some developers are coming up with ideas that could help unleash new ways of operating.
Source: Wireless Week
Music and phones to the ears: the
move from ringtones to song downloads may be a big leap, but some developers are
coming up with ideas that could help unleash new ways of operating.
With downloadable music taking a big chunk out of record companies revenues, the
music industry is looking to wireless as its saving grace. Although carriers
have experienced initial success with ringtones and music downloads. some still
question the long-term viability and the business case for these services. "The
music industry needs wireless to survive," says Dick Wingate, president of BPOD
Network, a digital media services company.
The music industry, according to Wingate, is accustomed to selling shiny discs,
but the Internet broke its accustomed retail modus operandi. And while record
companies didn't break any new or profitable ground with downloadable music, the
industry is getting a second wind with wireless, having learned a painful lesson
from mistakes made as the Internet gained popularity, Wingate says.
Wingate thinks the strength of the CD format still has legs as the go-to music
medium until about 2010. However, he says the recording industry is desperate to
set a new standard to follow. And that's why firms are eyeing wireless as the
Problem is, no one has figured out a business case for music downloads over
wireless. The popularity of ringtones offers glimpses of the possibilities,
"The ringtone is the new single," says Andy Volanakis, director of ringtones,
screen savers and music at Sprint PCS. What looked like it might have been a
nice value-add for carriers has turned into a wildly popular customer feature
that is proving just as lucrative. Last month, for example, Sprint PCS
downloaded nearly 10 million ringtones and screensavers, Volanakis says.
But Volanakis questions the business case for straight music downloads in an
ecosystem where recording companies me accustomed to a lion's share of the
profits. While he agrees it is a novel way to connect artists with the masses,
it still costs too much to make sense for the carrier.
"It costs roughly $7 to download a song," says Shawn Conahan, president of
Moviso, a provider of mobile media products and services in North America.
Playing that against MP3 players that can store 3,000 to 4,000 tracks for replay
makes music on wireless a bit of a stretch at the moment. However, developers,
carriers and media companies are searching for ways to exploit the two
industries that seem to have some synergy.
The immediate answer may not be in straight downloads because the idea that
customers would pay $1.99 for a song download seems a little obscure for many.
However, some developers have ideas that could migrate and begin to mesh in
For example, Musikube offers a real-time retail model that enables a range of
impulse purchase opportunities for retailers, record labels and carriers. Ashley
Heather, president, says the Vista Mobile Service application over a wireless
device requires only 10 seconds of a song in order to identify it. Because music
is so integrated in everyone's life, this is a smart tool that enables consumers
to get information that provides the incentive to purchase music, Heather says.
Other content strategies simply expand on the already successful ringtone in
personalizing the wireless devices. Carriers offer various ringtones that now
are migrating into favorite portions of songs. Because recording companies hold
the copyrights, songs are recreated in ringtone soundbites as opposed to being
sung by the original artists. In some instances, there could be three different
digital versions of a song created for ringtones. "Some are absolute howlers,"
says Vodafone's Graeme Ferguson, who is responsible for the company's business
development and content. Ferguson says carriers are looking for quality in new
ringtones. That could lead to performances by popular singers.
Until the recording and wireless industries can build a business case, they
likely will continue developing ringtones. Companies such as Versaly
Entertainment, a wireless new media company, signed an agreement with Valentino
Production Music, a publisher of 70,000 sound effects for the movie industry.
Versaly expects to add such sound effects to the ringtone menus, including
domestic zoo and exotic animal sounds, familiar household and background sounds,
laughter and audience applause, and excerpts from famous speeches.
With the ever-expanding menu of ringtone options, customers are beginning to
personalize their phones by assigning individualized ringtones to identify
different callers, as well as ringtones for ringbacks, creating an entirely new
add-on to the ringtone paradigm. This popularity is driving carriers to find new
possibilities for their menus.
It used to be that the radio and MTV were the arbiters of taste when it came to
music, but perhaps ringtones and wireless downloads will play a larger role in