Softening Ringtone Raises Questions on Mobile Music

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Mobile devices are supersaturated in many markets, and most consumers are inseparable from their phones.

That has translated into huge wins on the data side, yet questions continue to surround the growth potential of mobile music formats.  The sagging ringtone is drawing concern, and the future of concepts like OTA downloads remain uncertain.

The one-off ringtone has spilled billions in revenues, though the party appears to be slowly dying down.  “It’s been a great ride for everybody,” said David Dorn, senior vice president of New Media Strategy at Rhino Entertainment during a recent executive discussion at the Digital Music Forum in Los Angeles.

The next phase is mostly unknown, though the decreases bode poorly for more complicated formats – at least in the US and Europe.  Over-the-air (OTA) formats have performed only modestly – on both sides of the Atlantic – though expectations may have been set too high by a strapped recording industry. “We are still dealing with a business that has profound challenges,” explained Adam Sexton, chief marketing officer at mobile music backend provider Groove Mobile.

That puts the pressure on “the next big thing,” yet this platform remains in its infancy. “Mobile music is still less than one percent of the industry,” said Dave Ulmer, senior director of Entertainment Products at Motorola Media Solutions.

Story by editor Paul Resnikoff in Los Angeles.