Mobile catches beat

By Published on .

The bells are ringing for the music industry and the mobile phone.

The value of mobile music and gaming is expected to double to $11 billion by 2010, according to a new study from Informa Telecoms & Media, a telecommunications and media researcher. Performers, with a few notable exceptions such as Dr. Dre, now routinely cut ringtones along with their albums.

Alternative rock group Coldplay, in a deal with Cingular Wireless, made ringtones available from its "Speed of Sound" single from its "X&Y" album weeks ahead of its radio debut. The Coldplay release is part of Cingular Sounds, a program in which artists offer their ringtones exclusively through Cingular, and was promoted online. BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles.

Offerings like Coldplay's allow people to sample songs, while artists make a little money at the same time, says John Burbank, VP-marketing at Cingular. He calls the the program a loyalty reward for Cingular customers.

Already, the higher cost of ringtones, priced around $2, is generating more money for music makers on a song-by-song basis than iTunes at 99› a shot, says Theda Sandiford, brand director, Def Jam Mobile. Ringtones are "a greater revenue generator, which will change how people perceive what music is worth."

But in terms of where mobile music is going, that's just the overture. "The growth of mobile music has been astounding, from a cottage industry making basic monophonic ringtones in 1998 to a multibillion-dollar global business on which the music industry is staking much of its future," says Simon Dyson, co-author of the report from Informa.

There's also a battle brewing over what device, which services and which handset manufacturers will rule in the personal portable music scene. The mobile phone with MP3 capabilities is set to give Apple's iPod a run for the money. Motorola says its iTunes-compatible phone will launch later this summer.


Other phone marketers are upping the ante with sophisticated music/ mobile phone devices.

For instance, L.M. Ericsson is teaming with Napster to provide wireless service carriers with digital music service allowing consumers to download full-track numbers to handsets and to PCs through a subscription or a single-song model. Already, Sprint is offering customers an audio stream direct to the cell phone channel with rock, hip-hop, '70s, '80s, country and current hits.

For music fans, it's all good news. Some celebrities are offering fans the opportunity to have the same ringtones on their phones as they have. "You can now premiere a song as a ringtone prior to release on radio, says Ms. Sandiford.

Def Jam Mobile is considering starting its own telephone service. "Now we are repurposing content for the phone. The real win is when we create content for this medium," she says.

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