Ringback tone sales to triple in four years

Those tunes that play while you wait for someone to pick up are expected to generate $4.7 billion in revenue for mobile operators by 2012, according to new research.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Ringback tones, those songs that play on the line while you wait for someone to pick up, are music to the ears wireless operators. And the tune is only going to get sweeter, according to a new report out Tuesday.

digital music

By 2012, ringback tones are expected to generate $4.7 billion in revenue for mobile companies, according to the research firm MultiMedia Intelligence. That's triple the revenue that this service generates today. The research group said that ringback tones are on track to becoming the most attractive premium mobile content category for wireless operators, falling just short of revenue generated from mobile games.

"Ringback tones are quickly becoming the 'golden child' of the mobile music market, due to a winning combination of consumer popularity, and minimal impact from DRM or piracy," Frank Dickson, chief research officer with MultiMedia Intelligence said in a press release.

Ringback tones have proven to be a goldmine for mobile operators, but it's also an important component to the music industry's overall digital music strategy. The music industry, is in dire straits with sales of CDs plummeting over recent years. Digital distribution and mobile in particular can help boost sales, especially when consumers are willing to pay separately for full track songs, ringback tones and ringtones.

For example, Verizon Wireless sells standard ringtones for $2.99, ringback tones for $1.99 and full music tracks for 99 cents if they're downloaded onto a computer. (Verizon also offers a 20 percent discount for subscribers buying the song as both a ringtone and ringback tone.)

But ringback tones and ringtones, in particular, provide wireless operators and the music industry multiple opportunities for monetizing the same piece of content.