Crazy ringtones – could skins for smartphones be the next big thing?

It had to happen – with music single sales falling and downloads incorporated into the official UK music charts (since 17 April 2005) one day a ringtone-derived music single (the inevitable evolution of a music single-derived ringtone) would outsell a major music act. Keni was outraged to hear the crazy frog ringtone on my phone today (and no, I didn’t buy it – my brother sent it to me via Bluetooth) but I’m amazed at just how much attention the crazy frog has generated, seeing as it all started off as a Swedish student imitating his mate’s two-stroke scooter (hmm… I do something like that with my son in the shopping trolley as we whizz ’round Tesco…).

What seems particularly strange is how people are petitioning to get this off our airwaves (even complaining to the UK advertising standards agency) – surely if a company has enough money to pay for this level of advertising (and if you’re going to make £10m from selling a single ringtone, that should be plenty), then let them do it – even the “no advertising here” BBC runs ads on its World Service and in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage Alan Titchmarsh regularly mentions that the event is “supported by Merrill Lynch” (there goes the last of my street cred’).

The ringtone download market is growing at a phenomenal rate and according to The Independent, the typical £3 cost of a realtone is divided up as follows:

  • Music publishers 32p.
  • Content aggregators and distributors 64p.
  • Mobile operators 75p.
  • Record labels £1.29.

I was interested to hear Keni comment today that with the launch of the Windows Mobile 5.0 platform (formerly codenamed Magneto), the market for skins to customise smartphones could potentially be as large as the ringtone market (especially with the convergence of consumer-focused mobile phones and digital music players). We’ll have to see if that prediction comes true, but in the meantime I have to confess that I quite like the crazy frog… and the Nokia tune has been driving me mad for the last ten years.

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