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Okay, I’ll fess up right here and admit that I paid $2 to download a ring tone of the Cheap Trick song, “I Want You to Want Me.” And I paid another couple bucks to get a Grateful Dead ring tone for my wife. Of course, I’m hardly alone. Ring tones are big business, pulling in more than $1 billion per year globally. And now companies are finding new ways to cash in.

The latest–and shrewdest move–comes from Artemis Records. The label is including Xingtone software on the “Palm Trees and Power Lines” CD from a band called Sugarcult. For $15, you can activate the software and transform any song on the disc into a ring tone for your cell. Talk about viral marketing. Ring tones are basically free advertising for labels, and a great way to vest fans. This is a good example of how the recording industry can embrace–and benefit from–new technologies, as opposed to running away.

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