Fans of British rock band Coldplay take delight in the group’s lush, full sound and the keening vocals of front man Chris Martin. Fans of mobile smart phones, though, take great pleasure in personalizing their mini-machines.
This week, the two met, thanks to an exclusive deal between the band and Cingular Wireless. Even though it may be hard for music fans of a certain vintage to believe that rich-sounding music can be channeled through the tiny, tinny speaker of a cell phone, the $209 million market – which has nearly doubled since last year – suggests that the mobile masses have few qualms with the sound quality.
When Cingular Wireless launched its new ringtone service this week with the exclusive release of “Speed of Sound”, the first Coldplay single from its upcoming album XY, the response from fans was immediate.
“We’ve been floored,” says Mark Nagel, director for entertainment and downloadable services for Cingular. Fans can plunk down $2.49 to purchase a 15-second song snippet that can be used as their phone’s ringtone.
While mobile carriers have singed various deals with artists – Nokia teamed with Jay Z in 2003 to ship a phone that came loaded with MP3 versions of songs from The Black Album and ringtones, Cingular scored a coup by locking up an exclusive deal with one of the most eagerly anticipated bands of 2005 and offering a listen to its latest before any traditional outlets – radio and MTV. And the company is already locking up other artists. Upcoming exclusives include Ludacris songs and clips from bands appearing on the Vans Warped Tour this summer.
“We’re in an early stage in terms of significant revenues from wireless data services,” says Linda Barrabee, an analyst with The Yankee Group a Boston-based research firm. “But it’s been growing for the last year or so. Messaging is driving the lion’s share of revenues, but ring tones are second.”
It’s a trend that the wireless industry is happy to accommodate: The Yankee Group estimates that the 2004 market for ringtones in the US was $209 million, up from $117 million in 2003.