...and here's another.
Some creative hackers could probably make this a lot more fun :)
London Calling, With Telephone Tunes
Cell Handsets in Europe Strike a New Chord With Pop-Music 'Rings'
By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 20, 2001; Page E01
You can have Eminem ringing your phone all day long. If that prospect
is just too shocking, you might wind up listening to a tune from Mick
Jagger. Or Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, or just about any
other pop star.
It happens all the time in Europe, a continent that's gone crazy for
cell phones. With mobile phone usage here two or three times greater
than American levels, the cell phone has spawned a wave of spinoff
industries -- and one of the most successful is the booming business
in specialized "ring tones."
The snippets of song, known here by the German word "Klingeltöne,"
have become so common that trains, stadiums and pubs regularly turn
into impromptu karaoke centers as soon as a phone rings. If Eric
Clapton's "Layla" beeps out from someone's phone on a train, people
all over the car start singing. When a phone rings "Who Let The Dogs
Out?" in a pub, the whole bar bursts into rapping and barking; the
effect gets increasingly raucous as last call approaches.
In Scandinavia, arguably the world capital of cell phone use, ring
tones are so popular that bands now release each new song in five
formats: CD, cassette, video, MP3 and Klingeltöne. On new pop CDs,
the album cover provides Web addresses and telephone numbers where
listeners can buy the ring tones for each song on the record.
High school and college students in Western Europe started the fad.
No state-of-the-art teenager would dream of using the drab,
predictable ring tones that Nokia, Ericsson and other manufacturers
build into their equipment. Instead, they surf to the Web sites of
IconaPhone.com or Mobiletones.com and choose a new song, often
every day, to ring when somebody calls.
"Lots of Eminem, lots of dance hits, that's what selling now,"
said Jonathon Cox, a representative of Mobiletones, a British
company that offers hundreds of rings. "And, of course, the theme
from 'Mission: Impossible' -- that's always been popular."
The ring-tone trade started last year among a few spunky start-up
companies. But now the major cellular operators are jumping on the
bandwagon. Klingeltönes have proven far more popular than other
heavily promoted cellular ventures, like the vaunted "wireless
Internet" that has been a flop so far.
When the immensely popular Nylon Beat, Finland's home-grown
version of the Spice Girls, plays the opening bars of a song at
its rock concerts, fans by the hundreds hold up their phones and
ring along with the singers. Nylon Beat released its last single,
"Not Guilty," as a ring tone even before the CD came out; this
teaser proved so effective that "Not Guilty" hit No. 1 in Finland
on the first day of sale.
You might think the next logical step would be pop songs written
specifically for the cell phone. If you think that, you're right.
Vodafone Group PLC, operator of Europe's largest cellular phone
network, recently commissioned an exclusive ring tone composed
by Boy George.
"We've had deejays and radio stations promoting it," said Bryony
Clow, a Vodafone spokesman. "It's been very popular."
There are wildcat operators who sell ring tones without
authorization, but most dealers pay a license fee to the singer
for each tone sold. It is common fare on European editions of MTV
to see an announcement that a phone company has just signed an
exclusive deal with the likes of Boyzone or Oasis.
Pop ring tones have also swept like a tsunami through Japan,
another place where mobile communication is a central element of
youth culture. In the United States, where traditional phone
service is far cheaper and cell phones are more of a luxury,
this new wave in ring tones is just starting to build.
"It's going to hit here, probably by the end of this year, and
it's going to be very big," said Kate Danaj, research director at
the Chicago-based consultancy Teenage Research Unlimited. "Most
of the cell phone crazes come to us from overseas, and we can
see already the most avant-garde group of [American] teens are
picking up on pop ring tones."
Some U.S. wireless operators are gearing up. Atlanta's Cingular
Wireless said it plans to offer 20 rings, including Roy Orbison's
"Pretty Woman" and the "Lion King" theme, "Hakuna Matata."
Miami-based Nextones.com offers a selection of tones, but only for
phones built around the GSM technology standard, which is dominant
in Europe but makes up a small share of the American market. There
may be a particular jump in U.S. demand next fall, when a new
episode of "ER" is to include a segment with a teenager who uses a
customized ring. " 'ER' is using one of our tones," Mobiletones'
The easiest way to buy a new ring tone in London is to call a
telephone number and pick the song you want; the tone is then
automatically sent to your phone. The price, from 50 cents to $3.50,
is added to your monthly phone bill. Another approach is to go to a
Web site, such as www.mobiletones.com, listen to the songs available,
pick one, and enter your phone number and a credit card number. A
minute later your phone shows the message "Ring Tone Received."
But neither of these billing methods is suited to teenagers, who
often have neither credit cards nor telephone bills. One of the key
reasons for the explosion in cell phone use among the young in Europe
is the widespread availability of pre-paid calling cards, which means
teenagers can buy cell phone time with their allowance money.
To get a ring tone, the teenagers call a toll-per-minute number,
listen to the tones, and pick one for downloading. Since the
ring-tone supplier makes its money by keeping customers on the line,
these calls can last a while. The British firm IconaPhone, for
example, charges $1.15 a minute. But most IconaPhone tones end up
costing two or three times that because consumers have to go through
so many menus to make a purchase.
There are also Web sites offering tones for special interests,
including the "Football Hooligans" ring-tone home page and another
called "Beachbums' Ring Tones."
Certain pop songs seem perfectly suited to conversion into ring tones,
such as Mary J. Blige's "911" and No Doubt's "Spiderwebs" (sample
lyric: "Leave a message and I'll call you back . . ."). In fact,
though, the most popular ring tones generally turn out to be the same
songs that top the weekly pop charts. A recent top 10 list from
Mobiletones included three Eminem songs, plus two by Destiny's Child
and Kernkraft 400's "Zombie Nation."
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