Apparently selling ringtones for cell phones has everyone flipping out. Nearly every recent musikbiz seminar has a panel on ringtones as an additional revenue stream for artists — or, uh, their major label overlords. Seth Godin points out that interest in ringtones is so keen it even has its own magazine. Yes, a magazine dedicated to ringtones: The Ringtone Magazine (now in its 10th issue!).
Now some in the music industry are pitching a fit over Xingtone, a $15 program which allows anyone to make their own ringtones from existing audio files. Which strikes me as perfectly acceptable fair use, assuming the source audio was legally obtained. The article doesn’t focus much on the big barrier to entry — namely, a computer, and the ability to create the source audio files. Just guessing here, but I’d bet there are more cell phone users than iTunes and MusicMatch users.
Back when I first started tinkering on the Web, my computer’s startup sound was the opening chords of “Under” from Filter’s first album, Short Bus. I didn’t even know what MP3s were at the time; I just pulled up the Windows Sound Recorder. I can’t imagine paying money for that, and I can’t imagine anyone expecting to make much money from that. To me, charging for ringtones is, I dunno, like charging for Windows startup sounds or little animated email icons from 1996. Cory Doctorow mentions that there are already phones on the market that can play MP3s and more are probably on the way. Maybe the convenience of having a CD-quality ringtone (maybe an exclusive, ringtone-only pre-release? Hmm.) beamed directly to your phone via your provider and having it show up on your phone bill will generate enough revenue to keep the business viable.