Ringtones creating new market
When Itai Adi’s friend Maria is
calling, his cell phone lets him know by playing the Black Eyed Peas’ "Let’s Get
Calls from other friends of the high school senior might prompt "Toxic" by
Britney Spears, G Unit’s "Stunt 101," or Usher’s "My Boo" to ring, depending on
And when his family is on the line?
"I try to find an annoying ring for them," says Adi, 17, who by latest count had
downloaded 30 songs to ring on his cell phone, paying as much as $1.49 a shot.
"It could either be a song I don’t like, or, since you can also download noises,
it could be a bird that squawks really loud."
It’s all sweet music to the ears of the downbeat record industry. Since catching
on late last year, ringtones have exploded in popularity, producing an estimated
$375 million in U.S. revenue this year, according to IDC, an information
technology firm. The year before: only $18 million. Worldwide sales are far
bigger, particularly in Asia and Europe.
Billboard magazine, known for charting most popular songs, introduced a
ringtones category in November – one that, not surprisingly, echoes the most
So who’s calling now?
"We’ve gotten away from `Mission: Impossible’ and the `Pink Panther’ theme,"
says Adrian McAloon, executive director of content for Ztango, a U.S.
Snoop Dogg and Pharrell with "Drop It Like It’s Hot" top the Jan. 1 Billboard
ringtone charts, followed by Usher’s "My Boo." Third place: Ciara with Missy
Elliott on "1,2 Step."
The Billboard Music Awards last month picked its first Ringtone of the Year
Award. It was rapper 50 Cent for "In Da Club."
Meanwhile, ringtones are becoming their own art form. BlingTones has signed
hip-hop artists and producers such as Q-Tip, Rockwilder, Denaun Porter, Salaam
Remi and Hi-Tek to create original 30-second "pieces" available only through its
service. It calls itself the world’s first wireless record label.
A personalized ring "is an identity statement," says Lewis Ward, an analyst with
IDC. Many phones allow users to associate different songs with different
callers. "It says something about you to yourself and to your peers."