HomeInsightsTrust is key in billion dollar ring back tone market

    Trust is key in billion dollar ring back tone market


    Content and technical providers are hoping to help operators unlock a market that could soon be worth billions. The market is in mobile ring back tones, but the providers are stressing it is crucial operators regain the trust of the music industry.

    Mobile ring back tones (MRBT) is the name given to the service which lets a subscriber decide what someone will hear as the ring tone when they call him. So instead of the usual brr-brr or beep-beep, a caller will hear an excerpt from a particular song or piece of music.
    A subscriber can set his phone up so that different callers hear different music.

    The industry is excited about MRBT because in the fist market where it was introduced, South Korea, the earnings have been phenomenal. The service was launched by SK Telecom in May  2002 and within 12 months 55% of subscribers had taken the service. In 2004 it is estimated that MRBT will earn Korean operators $200 million in revenues.

    Another reason for the excitement is the growing number of smartphones in the market, which allow people to hear music much closer to its recorded quality.

    One of the important things to grasp about MRBT is that it is not a download service. A user selects a tone through a website, much as he would download a ring tone for his own phone The difference is the ring tone is streamed over the network from a platform sitting in the operator’s network. This means the operator can control and bill for the content, and handle the many copyright and DRM issues that the service creates.

    There are many such platform providers now appearing on the scene but the original provider to SK Telecom is, whose platform is called ColorRing.
    Operators are jumping on board, and the technology is viewed as the relatively simple part.

    Where the real issues lie is in content and rights management. This is further complicated because the music publishing industry has a big problem with the mobile industry due to feeling rather used and abused over ring tone downloads.
    As far as the music industry is concerned ring tone downloads were a debacle, consisting of little more than re-worked rip-offs of its content that exploited assets whilst paying nothing back.’s ceo Jinwoo Soo outlined the problem. “As music contents evolve, newly emerging music services are bundled to produce more value-added services  — making them more complex to service and manage. The need for simplified management and service delivery is increasingly becoming an issue.”

    One company that it looking to bridge the gap between the mobile industry and the musis publishers is Muzicall. Muzicall bills itself as the link between the two communities, and itself is formed of a partnership between technology company and music management company. It sources music from major and minor labels, re-edits songs so that they can be played sympathetically in 30 second clips to be heard on the ring back tones, distributes the songs to the operator’s streaming platforms and, crucially, handles the rights issues.

    Muzicall’s senior management team includes mobile techies as well as record industry veterans; this has been crucial, it said, in gaining music industry trust.
    Nick Price, director of music content, has held many senior positions in the record industry. He said, “It has been a long haul to get the relationship re-established because there has been utter hatred between the phone companies and the music companies, who have seen a complete pillaging of their copyright.”

    Price said that music companies needed to trust the content manager, that it will do a good job of presenting the material and of securing appropriate rights. The relationship is such that music companies are now revising much of their back catalogues, to re-edit content for ring back tones, as well as ensuring new material is edited for mobile use. The music industry has its own motives, of course, faced at it has been with a steep fall in singles sales in recent years.’s Jinwoo Soo said that MRBT is just the start of a new relationship between the two industries. “The closer mobile music content gets to achieving original sound quality, and the more mobile devices emerge as a basic music content distribution channel, the more appealing the music industry is finding the mobile music business.”

    “It won’t be long before users can enjoy diverse on-demand music services from their handsets anytime, anywhere.” he added.

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