Ringtone market comes to the end of its crescendo
You couldn't tell by the
increasing cacophony that mobile phones send up every time a call comes in, but
after years of double-digit growth, the global ringtone market is coming to the
end of its crescendo, according to a variety of measures.
In some parts of the world, ringtone sales are actually declining, and the
former ringtone kings, like Jamba of Germany and Musiwave of France, are
reorganizing their businesses to focus on more profitable ways for consumers to
personalize their cellphones.
A couple of years ago, in the midst of the ubiquitous "Crazy Frog" wave, there
seemed to be no upper limit to the sale of the €2 and €3, or $2.90 and $4.35,
snippets of music that blast out of cellphones. Billboard magazine created a
"hot ringtones" chart in 2004 to track their popularity, and at one point in
2005, analysts predicted an $11 billion ringtone business by 2010.
But the market changed in unexpected ways. For one, more mobile phones were
being made with the ability to create or record their own tunes. For another,
record labels actively promoted so-called "master ringtones" - excerpts from the
original pop recordings - for about the same price as the knockoffs but with
higher royalty fees. And digital music stores like iTunes began packaging and
selling ringtones alongside their 99-cent singles.
All three trends lessened the need for - and profitability of - ringtone
aggregators, like Jamba, the Berlin-based marketer behind the "Crazy Frog"