Ringtones drown out CD singles
By Adam Sherwin, Media Reporter
THE ringtone, an irritant to many, has become the music purchase of choice for
teenagers after generating more than double the income of CD singles this year.
Ringtones generated about £120 million of business during 2004, according to
figures released today by the financial services company KPMG. Sales of CD
singles continued to plummet, with recorded sales worth £55 million, down by 15
With digital replicas of hits now available as “truetones”, the ringtones market
is set to outperform CD singles and the nascent online download market in 2005.
The most popular ringtone of 2004 was the dance hit Babycakes by 3 of a Kind, a
song created on a bedroom computer by Marc Portelli, an East London teenager.
Children pay up to £4 for the latest ringtones. Urban and R&B hits dominate,
with Usher, Eric Prydz and American rappers D12 among the Top Ten of 2004.
But ringtones present a challenge to Britain’s rock bands. There is not a single
guitar-based hit in the year’s Top 20. Music critics claim that pop singles such
as Britney Spears’s Toxic are being created around a simple nagging riff with
ringtone sales in mind.
Ringtones have given a new lease of life to musical curiosities. The theme to
Only Fools and Horses is just outside the Top 20, as is the music from The
Exorcist: Tubular Bells, composed by Mike Oldfield.
There are signs that mature music fans are getting to grips with the technology.
Golden oldies such as Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Deep Purple’s
Smoke on the Water hover just outside the bestsellers list.
With 700,000 official music downloads being sold each month, online sales will
be merged into the Top 40 singles chart next spring. But record companies are
wary of incorporating downloads into the rundown.
Ringtones’ profits often go to the artists and the song publishers, bypassing
record companies. A 30-second ringtone is not equivalent to the purchase of a
three-minute single, traditionalists argue.
The global ringtone market was worth an estimated £3 billion this year and
contributed to Britain’s youth mobile phone market valued at £3.2 billion.
Ministry of Sound, the record label, estimates that it will generate £15 million
of income from ringtones in 2005.
Although the official ring- tones chart is less than a year old, it is keenly
studied by advertisers and brand managers to discover which sounds are driving
the purchases of millions of teenagers.
Calum Chace, media consultant at KPMG, said: “The popularity of ringtones shows
that people will pay if it is delivered in the right way — convenient,
virus-free and legal.”