While the mobile phone music industry seems to be flattening out with ringtones and MP3 music reaching the peak of popularity, here comes a savior to the mobile-music business in the form of ringback tones.
Ringback tones, the sound/music that we hear, when we call somebody is fast becoming popular among cell phone users and has the highest growth percentage among cell phone related businesses. According to M:Metrics, the number of cell phone users who purchased ringback tones between February 2007 and February 2008, jumped by 69%. In comparison, the market for ringtones and wallpapers in the same period grew by only 4.3% and 6.2% respectively.
The main reason for music labels and cell phone service providers to be upbeat about the ringback tone business is that actual usage and growth figures can be estimated. Unlike ringtones, which cell phone users can exchange among themselves or download for free from various websites, ringback tones can be obtained only through the service provider and only for a price. According to the research firm Multimedia Intelligence, the ringback tone business is expected to touch revenues of up to $4.7 billion by 2012.
Ideally there's not much difference between a ringtone and a ringback tone. The same songs and true tones can be used as both a ringtone and a ringback tone. A ringback tone is more personal than the ringtone; if we have a message for our callers, a nice ringback tone is sufficient to send the message across.
Usually hip-hop and R&B numbers are more preferred as ringback tones, with the popular ones being, 'Shawty Is A 10' by The Dream, 'Bed' by J. Holiday, 'Heaven Sent' by Keyshia Cole. In fact, the Alicia Keyes' hit single 'No one' became the first ever Gold-selling ringback tone, selling to more than 500,000 mobile users. If it had been album sales, the same number would have given it a Gold status.
Cell phone service providers and music companies are making a lot of money from the ringtone and ringback tone business. The websites that offer free ringtones and wallpapers are facing a tough time with copyright and piracy issues. Hence, they have changed their modus operandi by coming out with innovative tones like mosquito tone or teen buzz ringtone with ultrasonic sound waves that are audible only to those below 20 years of age. Some websites allow you to make your own ringtone free by using music from your PC/laptop and mixing it the way you like.