Ringtones, video ringtones, and ringbacks Matt 12 Oct 2005

83 comments Latest by Arbonne

If you had told me a few years back that ringtones would be a big part of the future of the music business, I would never have believed it. Well, ringtones now account for more than 10% of the global music market and are overtaking CD sales sooner than expected.

Now, the industry is gearing up to pitch ringbacks, the song you hear when you call somebody’s cell phone and wait for them to answer, and video ringtones. “There are only a few carriers around the world that are licensing video ringtones,” according to Tim Nilson, vice president of global/mobile technology for SonyBMG. “I see that happening in the next 12 months, as the next push in the whole ringtone phenomenon.”

I’m tempted to ask who the hell cares but clearly I’ve missed the boat on this whole trend. Personally, I don’t get the ringtone phenomenon (“it’s all about who has the most original ringtone”…really?). My m.o. is to go with the least annoying standard ringtone on my phone and leave it set there forever. Apparently this means I’m just a few minutes away from requiring dentures and a pair of Depends. Anyway, what’s your ring sound like?

83 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Jim Gaynor 12 Oct 05

Ringtone? Sounds like like the physical ringer of an old-school rotary-dial Ma-Bell phone. Love it.

my lumps 12 Oct 05

“My Humps” by the world’s greatest band, the BLACK EYED PEAS!!!! HOLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Don Schenck 12 Oct 05

I have three ring groups; the ringers are

Penn State Fight Song

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Old Ma-Bell ringer

Silus Grok 12 Oct 05

My ringtone is a chorus of tree frogs… easy for me to ignore if I’m busy, and backgroundy (new word!) enough that I’m not horribly embarrased if I forget to turn-off the ringer when I’m at church, in a movie, or on a date.

What I’m waiting for, though, is a button that will allow me to “answer” the phone and immediately put them on hold.

Scenario 1: I’m driving, someone calls that I actually have to speak to. I push the “receptionist” button, and the call is answered and a recorded message says something like “Silus will be right with you, please hold”. This gives me the time to pull over to the side of the road to take the call.

Scenario 2: I’m at the end of a conversation and someone rings me… I hit the “receptionist” button. Now I have enough time to wrap-up my current convo in a polite and well-paced fashion.

SH 12 Oct 05

The great thing about real-audio ringtones these days is how distinguishable they are. It’s a lot easier to set a certain song to play when someone calls so you can identify it without looking at the screen than it is to figure out which series of long and short beeps means mom is calling. I know more people who choose songs as ringtones and just put their phone on silent when they’re in public than I do people who choose one simple ring or keep it on virbate all the time. It’s all about personal identifiable preferance, much like the flashy colors iPod minis used to come in.

I don’t think it’s about an age thing, it’s just about personality. I’m practically 30, and yet everytime a friend of mine gets a new phone they always text me, “What song do you want for your ringtone.” I usually will always choose Take It On The Run or Allentown.

Jamison 12 Oct 05

I used to have the guitar intro to Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweat Child of Mine” as my ringtone, not that I was ever a fan, it came out a joke between friends and turned out to be distinctive, non-intrusive, and when my phone would go off you could see half the people in a room smile and giggle when they “got it”.

I lost that ringtone when I switched phones and for the last three years have just had the default Nokia ringtone.

Vishi 12 Oct 05

Ting TididiTing TididiTididiTing TididiTididiTididiTing
Ting TididiTing TididiTididiTing TididiTididiTididiTing
Ting TididiTing TididiTididiTing TididiTididiTididiTing

Michael Daines 12 Oct 05

I’m personally hoping there’ll be a VINTAGE RINGTONES fad — where the thing will be to have a sample of a very specific olde-tyme telephone. The rarer the better!

Markus 12 Oct 05

Ferry Corsten - Punk

I found an old app from the Nokia-community that converts MP3’s to AMR. Poor quality, but hey, as long as I hear which tune it is and it’s original enough ;)

Benjy 12 Oct 05

For most of my cell phone owning life, I’ve stuck to the simplist, least offensive ring. But I finally broke down a few months ago to download the theme music from “CHiPs” as my tone. That show was my favorite, except for maybe Dukes of Hazzard” when I was a kid…

Dave Simon 12 Oct 05

I don’t think video ringtones will be as much in demand as audio, for the same reasons Scott mentions.

If it is truly about having an original ringtone, then nobody wins, because most people seem to have the same sets of ringtones to choose from - even when downloading them for $1 each or whatever.

My ringtone is the Super Mario Bros. song. It’s easy to distinguish from most other phones, and it’s always a conversation starter. If you are out and your phone plays Mario, most people recognize it, and then you can talk old school games.

The funny part is how many people change their ringtone to “Who can it be now?” by Men at Work and think they are the first to do so.

Travis Schmeisser 12 Oct 05

I’ve got a RAZR with terrible tones and I can’t stand the music ones. It’s really hard to find decent PLAIN tones online. You know - like rings. Music is for my iPod.

brad 12 Oct 05

The “the least annoying standard ringtones” has now actually become the “most original” ringtones because hardly anyone uses them. Thus you always known when it’s your cellphone that’s ringing, unless you happen to be sitting next to another Luddite.

glasser 12 Oct 05

My cell phone is only set on vibrate. Sadly it still rings when it’s plugged in to charge.

ak 12 Oct 05

my phone has bluetooth and plays mp3s, so it’s way to easy to transfer a song over and use it as a ring tone. especially since it didn’t come with anything worth using, just the annoying cingular and motorola signature tones.

Ryan 12 Oct 05

My piece of crap Samsung came with about a dozen ringtones preinstalled… and not a single one that just sounds like a phone ringing. They’re all songs, most of them stupid, or the “T-Mobile sound” in case I’m feeling particularly corporate someday. So I’m using Grieg’s “Peer Gynt”.

I don’t want to pay money to buy a simple ringing-phone ringtone.

Rob 12 Oct 05

Great timing on this post, I was *just* thinking about this on the way to work this morning. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how ringtones became popular. Although it is kinda funny when some big burly dude’s cellphone starts playing a Britney Spears song.

And ringback tones sound kinda confusing. Imagine trying to call someone and you’re suddenly listening to the radio? If I didn’t know that was possible I’d assume something went horribly wrong and hang up the phone.

I’m with you Matt, I pick the most “normal” sounding ring on my phone and leave it there forever.

Dan Boland 12 Oct 05

I don’t get the ringtone fad either. I guess I’m not hip enough. My ringtone is one of the ones that came with my phone. Although if I could, I would use one of the songs from the Mega Man series… those games has great music (especially Mega Man 2).

Kim Siever 12 Oct 05

My ring tone sounds like a phone ringing.

Silus Grok, good to see someone else from the Bloggernacle here.

JF 12 Oct 05

Huge market to come: IM tones

Tim 12 Oct 05

My ringtone is the sound of civilization crumbling.

Jeff 12 Oct 05

The only time I hear my phone is when it is sitting on something solid. I only use vibrate mode. Ring tones are annoying enough, but why do the people that have them have to slowly pull out their phone, look at who it is, turn to their friend and say it’s so-and-so, then after a minute of listening to their annoying Top 40 tune, finally answer the phone? The few times I’ve had mine off vibrate (usually when I’ve been charging it in the car and forget to change it back), as soon as it starts ringing, I hit the button to mute the ringer, then look to see who it is.

Jeff 12 Oct 05

I don’t get the ringtone thing either. I think most of us here are a bit too old for this fad? It’s the teenagers that are the big push behind this.

I have noticed that the standard ringtones on phones these days are much worse than 5 years ago. My first cellphone had great rings, like Jingle Bells for the holiday season, and some Bach songs etc.

My last phone came with a “sample” ringtone that I used as my fulltime ring - it was a chicken clucking, and it was GREAT. People loved it - I wish I knew a way to get the same thing onto my new phone.

I also don’t EVER see myself paying $3 for a ringtone that expires in two months, only to have to pay the money again.

Anton Borzov 12 Oct 05

woodpecker knocking

Britt 12 Oct 05

I was shocked (!) to read about the five teenagers who were part of a Web 2.0 panel in which one of them said he spent $50-60 A MONTH on ringtones while also saying that he doesn’t pay for music!

What part of ringtones do I not understand?

Oh, I don’t even have a cellphone.

Jeff Adams 12 Oct 05

I’m with the other Jeff, good old non-distracting vibrate. Take your phone calls without disturbing everyone else on the planet.

Kyle 12 Oct 05

Never would have thought I’d be a ringtone buyer, that is until I found out they had ringtones based on my favorite childhood videogames.

My current ringtone is based on Super Marios Bros, available surprisingly, from Sprint. Keeping an eye out for a Spy Hunter one, as well as a Legend of Zelda.

endekks 12 Oct 05

Yamaha has freeware which lets you convert any WAV file to SMAF - meaning you can put whatever you want as your ringtone. (I got the software from the Japanese site, as I live in Japan and followed links as provided via links for my specific ketai, but I see no reason why any other SMAF playing mobile wouldn’t work as well.) I can have whatever I want for my tone, and not pay a dime for it. Old 8-bit video game SFX and music, a sample of my wife’s voice, real loops from tracks I like (as opposed to the MIDI ones being pawned off on everyone), samples from movies or TV shows, whatever.

Hell, I even have a sample of S.A.M. (Software Automated Mouth - a super ancient speech synthesiser for those of you not in the know) alerting me whenever I get any reminders sent to me from Backpack. ^____^ Though after reading this, I should probably change what it says to something more along the lines of “Ringtones are for chump suckaz!”

richie cookson 12 Oct 05

I always thought ringtones was kinda like burberry. Beloved of the chav’s and not a lot of other people ;-)

NathanB 12 Oct 05

Any kid that spends 50-60 bucks a months on ringtones should be slapped silly by their parents.

Having a phone that plays MP3s is fine, but otherwise ringtones aren’t portable correct? It’s a form of customer lockin: you’ve spent a bunch of money on ringtones, so if you want to leave, that’s money down the toilet.

All service providers are desperate to hold on to customers, so they market all these “sticky” products that are really just lockin measures. I am so sick of “gatekeeper” companies. If I can’t leave your product or service painlessly, you won’t get my business.

Nick 12 Oct 05

My ringtone is the theme from Knight Rider.

Lisa 12 Oct 05

Does anyone know where i can find the old Ma Bell ringer?

Jemaleddin 12 Oct 05

I have to have my ringer set to sound LIKE A PHONE - otherwise I just wonder what the noise is.

And by the way, you can tell when people are really proud of their ringtone because they let it ring long enough to be recognizable before answering. And everyone in the room thinks, “What a pathetic asshole.” Don’t let it be you.

SH 12 Oct 05

Having a phone that plays MP3s is fine, but otherwise ringtones aren�t portable correct? It�s a form of customer lockin: you�ve spent a bunch of money on ringtones, so if you want to leave, that�s money down the toilet.

That’s not totally accurate. On Verizon, you can download 5 ringtones for less than $8, and you can email them or send them to another friend’s phone. I have a phone on a family plan, and we routinely share ringtones we buy. Also, gone are the days when ringtones that you download “expire” unless you’re buying them from some off market place online or something. If you purchase the ringtones directly from your carrier, they won’t expire and you’re free to send them/use them as you please.

NathanB 12 Oct 05

SH, so if you’ve built a “library” of 20 or so ringtones on Verizon, and you want to switch to Sprint, you can transfer them to your new Sprint phone?

Dylan Berry 12 Oct 05

My Sony Ericsson T300 sports an IR port, that means I can send any midi file I choose without paying ridiculous prices.

My current ringtone is a midi rendition of In Flame’s “Clayman”.

Jim V 12 Oct 05

I also use the Knight Rider theme, I guess kevin and I can’t be at the same place at the same time.

JimV 12 Oct 05

Kevin? huh, meant Nick. There isn’t even a Kevin on this list yet

SH 12 Oct 05

“…so if you�ve built a �library� of 20 or so ringtones on Verizon, and you want to switch to Sprint, you can transfer them to your new Sprint phone?”

First, I’m not 16, so I don’t have such a “library” of ringtones. Second, I’m able to email a ringtone to my laptop and then send it to someone with a Cingular phone, so I’m guessing the same can be done with any other Non Verizon customers. Third, I highly doubt I’ll ever switch to Sprint. Ever.

Tony Schinkowski 12 Oct 05

You are completely missing the point that the Music Mafia is mainly selling its stuff to kids. They are exploiting kids. They extract the money from children. That is the core of their business. To take the money from the kids.

They are taking advantage from the fact that kids are in their development. Kids are learning how to take of money, what the worth of things is.

I find the behaviour of the Music Mafia morally corrupt.

And for this, they are pushing the laws in their favour. This is sick.

Christopher Fahey 12 Oct 05

I’ve had a Pocket PC phone for years now. I can drag and drop any MP3 file I want as a ring tone (right now it’s either Twikki from Buck Rogers going “beedybeedybeedy” or an endless loop of the funky-as-hell Sesame Street end credits music).

I hate many things about my Pocket PC phone (it’s huge, the UI suffers from a lot of the same issues that Windows suffers, and sometimes it uses a desktop UI widget when a simpler, phone-like widget would be better), but the fact that I can treat my phone like a flexible computer platform rather than as a dumb, slavish client to the service provider is a huge plus.

Screw the “walled gardens” and DRM models that lock phone users to particular media and software providers and file formats. I laugh at the millions of people who are being exploited by the Ring Tone industry.

Craig 12 Oct 05

I didn’t get the ring tones thing until I got a new phone that allows for setting custom ringtones for each person in your phonebook. I haven’t bought ringtones, but I did set a custom stock ringtone for each member of my immediate family. It’s so nice to know who’s calling before I answer the phone.

Silus Grok 12 Oct 05

Hey Kim… good to see you, too!

Of course, I’m _everywhere_ (just Google me), so you shouldn’t be surprised.

: )

Clay Loveless 12 Oct 05

I’m already wearing the Depends, I guess: my phone is always on vibrate, and only rings audibly when plugged into the charger.

Alex 12 Oct 05


Anonymous Coward 12 Oct 05

Vibrate or Silenco

Josh 12 Oct 05

I really don’t get the ringtone phenonomen, but I’m hoping it stays around. I work for one of the major ringtone providers and for the most part all of the people who work in my office don’t even know friends who have ever purchased a ringtone (let alone having purchased one themself!). And yet, we make a lot of money at it.

The need to personalize is a very powerful force in people’s lives, despite the costs this can occur.

Garrick Van Buren 12 Oct 05

Like car alarms and home security systems, I believe mobile phones should always be silent. In my book, anything louder than ‘vibrate’ should be taboo, if not illegal.

kmilden 13 Oct 05

Apple isight ringer sound. Good for a laugh.

Serge 13 Oct 05

I opt for the least conspicous standard ringtone. Stelath mode. Who wants to advertise the fact that they have an flashy, expensive modern phone to every poetential phone jacker in the vicinity?

Rahul 13 Oct 05

I don’t even have a cellphone. If not having a ringtone means dentures, what does not having a cellphone mean?

Joseph 13 Oct 05

My phone rang the other day. Instead of wobbling across the table. I didn’t even recognise it, and missed the call.

Adrian 13 Oct 05

Hmm, pay stupid amounts of money for a 15sec clip of a song at low quality, or buy the entire CD single for less than the ringtone, rip it to MP3 and use Bluetooth to transfer it to phone, instant customised ringtone.

When my phone is off silent I have a ripped version of one of Coldplay’s songs. I got the entire new album for about 3 times the cost of an average ring tone. Much better value for money.

Charles Miller 13 Oct 05

I have an Ericsson something-or-other, and it seems like many others here I picked the one built-in ringtone that didn’t suck: the sound of a phone ringing.

Unfortunately, someone else in the office has the exact same phone, and chose the exact same ringtone for the exact same reason, so being the polite guy I am, I swapped it for something slightly more annoying and beepy.

Michael Tyznik 13 Oct 05

One of five, depending on who’s calling:

“Bucky Done Gone” - M.I.A.
“Criminal” - Fiona Apple
“Freetime” - Kenna
“Girl” - Beck
“Rock Lobster” - B-52’s

I mostly have these because it makes me happy when I hear them. My friend’s phone started playing “We Built This City” by Starship last night, and it made me laugh.

Don Schenck 13 Oct 05

It’s common to use “Kevin” as a nickname for “Nick”.


Michael Spina 13 Oct 05

Yeah, I don’t really get it either. I can understand wanting to personalize your phone, but “personalize” by paying money for some hit half the people in the room have?

My goal is to sample some Casio SK-1 beats and use them. I think the “rock” rhythm would make a nice non-distracting and pleasant tone.

ramin 13 Oct 05

I’m currently using the MacGyver theme as my main ringtone with several other (Metal) mp3s waiting to be used.

While I understand the want for silent phones in many places, there are workplaces and jobs where the phone MUST get your attention immediately. I used to work for a university and there, when at work I always had my phone on beep+vibrate.

Because I’ve been a volunteer fire fighter for quite a while and now work for a rescue department, I need to hear my phone always since it may be a call to action that I’m getting and not just a phone call.

The ringtone phenomenon is probably even worse in Europe, esp. here in Finland than in the States. With the large amount of phones in workplaces and such, personalization is important even simply to avoid having everyone digging their pockets.

But I have always wondered how so many companies can live off the business of selling ringtones and other customizations, for each phone I’ve had I’ve spent about 5 $ at most for the ringtones and that’s it.

And the reason why modern phones don’t have the same quality of tones as older ones? Nokia tries to promote the ringtone business. I don’t think I need to spell it out any clearer.

Shawn Oster 13 Oct 05

As more people feel like they are being swallowed by the “machine of society” they look for more ways to personalize the jaws of the machine that has them. Makes people feel special and unique I suppose. Personally I think it’s silly but then again I use tattoos to give me that “I’m not just another clone” warm-fuzzy.

Ryan 15 Oct 05

I download old game MIDI and bluetooth them to my mobile.

I’ve got Sonic the Hedgehog at the moment. Next up is going to be one from the original DOOM.

Beats paying for them, and that’s damn original! (And for the people who count, it should get a few giggles).

Deb 18 Oct 05

It sounds like almost none of you have tried ringbacks, since you’re focusing so much on ringtones. I tried ringbacks yesterday for the first time (after reading this post!), and now I completely understand why they are such a huge market. It’s much more fun to determine what your incoming callers will hear than to choose a ringtone for yourself.

Using a pretty simple web interface from your computer (at least on my service), you can assign a specific song to play based on a caller ID or group of caller IDs, day of the week, time of day, etc., or have a whole set of your ringbacks play randomly. Now imagine that potential to a 15 year old, choosing what song she wants her boyfriend to hear when he calls. I’m far from my teen age years, but I was sucked in and immediately bought several. My best friend is going to be subjected to Tom Jones each time she calls until I decide to find something new and ridiculous to make her listen to.

To somebody who is procrastinating, this is a great new way to waste money and time.

Ruben 18 Oct 05

Ringbacks sounds like a neat idea. I think the market for the ringtones is teens + college students… and me if I can get a phone that lets me upload my own ringtones.

I was at a bonfire camping with some friends and one kid pulls out his phone and starts playing all types of songs, which made others respond by bopping their heads and singing along. I think it has less to do with a cell ringtones and more to do with the places people can take music they enjoy.

Troels 27 Oct 05

Hmmm I never thought my self a ring tone downloader. But only one of my Nokia 6100 tones actually sound like cell phone, but its so high pitched that it gives me the chills everytime there is a incoming call.

I am trawling the net just to find a decent ring-ring in midi format for free.

its hard

…Troels Hansen

Vaguely Artistic 02 Nov 05

Just like the first poster, I have the old-school rotary ring. When it rings, you can see the pain on people’s faces as they dig way, way, way back in their memory banks to make an association with the sound, and when they do you can practically touch the lightbulb that appears over their head

Of course, this only works with people of a certain age ;)

MiSSy 18 Nov 05

hey i knoe what everything is i just wannna knoe how to change my ringback tone cause rite now it is gay… rite mee back… bye bye…

MiSSy 18 Nov 05

hey i knoe what everything is i just wannna knoe how to change my ringback tone cause rite now it is gay… rite mee back… bye bye…

Jessica 24 Nov 05

I havnt got my ringback yet and it is really making me mad….and i*ve been trying to get it for about a month now and i wish ya*ll could do something…thanx!Lovezz…


kelsey 18 Dec 05

how do you get frikin ringbacks for sprint? i totally need one and like umm… ya!!! HELP ME!! plz e-mail me info on how to get a ringback for my sprint phone… [email protected] thanx!

kelsey 18 Dec 05

how do you get frikin ringbacks for sprint? i totally need one and like umm… ya!!! HELP ME!! plz e-mail me info on how to get a ringback for my sprint phone… [email protected] thanx!

kelsey 18 Dec 05

how do you get frikin ringbacks for sprint? i totally need one and like umm… ya!!! HELP ME!! plz e-mail me info on how to get a ringback for my sprint phone… [email protected] thanx!

LESLIE 24 Dec 05

I want to change my ringtone

shirley 24 Dec 05


ccpanel 04 Jan 06

tryin my hardest to find a good old classic 70’s rotary phone ringer for my cell. you know-a basic phone ringer that actually sounds like a phone. help me! email it to me or point me to a website. thansk!!

edil 04 Jan 06

My humps by Black eyed peas was a splendid Piece of music it was amazing i also want a copy of that song

Paz 04 Jan 06

yehey patey it rocks dud!

tco 04 Jan 06


i-need-ringbacks 15 Jan 06

oky. i no im a little late for this. but HOW DO YOU GET RINGBACKS FOR SPRINT?!?!?!?!?!? does sprint even give ringbacks? cause if they dont then im sueing.

Renae 16 Jan 06

I want ringback for sprint! How can I get it! All my friends have it with other carriers and want it with sprint!

cherry 30 Apr 06


abhay 12 May 06



Ringtones are nice for me for 2 reasons.
1) I work in an I.T. building and spend a lot of time in a server room with several hundred servers. 99% of ringtones are impossible to hear in here due to the amount of white noise. Even the vibration function is hard to feel if you are working around a lot of these servers. A custom, high-pitched ringtone is easy to hear over the low-level noise. The X-Files theme, and a Siren are two examples of ringtones I can always hear in these situations.
2) Setting a custom ringtone allows me to know who is calling without even looking at my phone. If I am in a meeting, or giving a presentation and my phone rings, I can recognize the caller, and hit the silent button on the side of the phone without ever pulling it off my belt. This allows me to go on un-interrupted. However, if it were, say, my boss calling, I would be able to excuse myself enough to answer it. This has saved me a couple of times when minds were changed at the last moment about decisions that were made in meetings.

Arbonne 08 Jun 06

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