Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, May 13, 2021

A while back, I judged the ringtone-worthiness of the songs in my music collection.

I won’t have to go through that exercise again, if current trends continue: Advancing capabilities in handsets and data networks have moved cellphones from an incidental music platform to the primary delivery medium for full-length songs.

Cellphone companies are keenly aware of their growing importance in the music business. A year or two ago, they were in a weaker bargaining position, asking for permission to use songs as ringtones; now they find labels and artists coming to them with new ideas. Some artists are even cutting recordings in the studio designed as ringtones.

“There’s much better coordination now than there has been in the past,” said David Garver, executive director of marketing for Cingular Wireless, which struck an exclusive deal with “American Idol” allowing fans to download performances as ringtones. Two years ago, when cellphone music was an insignificant market, the major music labels paid little attention to carriers like Cingular, which got access only to a limited library of tunes, he said. “Now they have digital divisions that work with the carriers,” and the companies work in tandem to develop products designed exclusively for the carriers, he said.

“I used to go down there to the record store, and there was a social aspect to it,” said Michael McGuire, an analyst with research firm Gartner Inc. “You could just hang around and get recommendations.”

A further development in the digitization of the music biz. Obviously, this breaks down the album format even further, as downloadable singles have more cache in this model. It also commoditizes music more, with exclusive song releases being used as lures to lock users into particular wireless services.

Personally, I’ve found music-buying to have become a more introverted pasttime, although not via my phone. iTunes has become my one-and-only avenue for buying music; brick-and-mortar outlets might as well not exist.

Still, even though I can now join in on the phone-based music phenomenon, I won’t. Still something about maintaining device orthodoxy: Cellphone for talking (and Web, in a pinch), iPod for music. Call me old-fashioned.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/13/2006 07:41pm
Category: Business, Pop Culture, Tech
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