Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mobile music looks beyond ringtones

The Washington Post picks up a Reuters/Billboard article about the mobile music/customization market beyond ringtones. Coming soon to a carrier near you are "musical "alert tones" -- a snippet of a song lasting between two and five seconds, that users can assign to play when they receive incoming text messages and voice mail, similar to a ringtone."

The carriers and music labels are hoping to cash in on the the 9.8 billion text messages sent per month." Beyond alert tones are other customization features, such as endtones to "replace the beeping that occurs when a call has been dropped," and "Razz that enables phone users to insert audio clips into active conversations, outgoing messages and voice mail."

Seamus McAteer at M:Metrics said, "The personalization thing would appear to be played ou. There are lots of ways music can be used to make a statement or add context, but it can go from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can't just add a jingle to everything you want to do with a phone. There are limits."

According to M:Metrics, ringback tones have been offered in the U.S. "for more than a year, but collectively have attracted only 3.6 million subscribers as of March."

McAteer projected "the United States could see more than 10 million ringback tone subscribers by the end of the year once other carriers enter the market. That move is expected this summer." He said, "Ringback tones are going to take off. They are the big sleeper right now, but you'll see a tipping point with these things where they'll start doubling every month."

The mobile industry is hoping another fad, like ringtones, catches fire. McAteer added, "When we first saw ringtones in '98 it was just a gimmick. But they've become a mainstay for the music business. So I don't want to underestimate anything. You just don't know."