Classical Music: Rings
By JACOB HALE RUSSELL
Everyone from Madonna to hip-hop
star Kanye West has been selling portions of their songs as cellphone ringtones.
Now, some less likely names are joining them -- like the early 20th-century
Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
Orchestras and classical-music publishers want a piece of the increasingly
lucrative ringtone business -- which saw about $600 million in U.S. sales last
year -- and they're rolling out their own music for cellphones. Boosey & Hawkes,
a major classical music publisher, offers more than 300 songs from its catalog
as $2.99 ringtone downloads on its Web site. The New York-based American
Composers Orchestra is auctioning five exclusive ringtones online that it
commissioned from composers like Philip Glass and Danny Elfman. And the London
Symphony Orchestra now sells ringtone versions of its concert recordings for
European cellphones on its Web site for about $5.20 each, and plans to start
carrying ones for U.S. phones this year.
It's a sign of how the classical music business, slow to take advantage of the
Internet, is gradually moving into the digital era.
And the ringtones aren't just a revenue source, but a marketing tool. Many of
Boosey's best-selling tones come from its 20th-century catalog, like John
Adams's 1986 piece "Short Ride in a Fast Machine."