Power of ringtones to change the music market

This little story in today’s Wall Street Journal underscores the dynamics of the music market today:
WSJ.com – How Cellphones Saved the Radio Star

The mobile-phone ring tone was more important in propelling Madonna’s hit single “Hung Up” to the top of the charts than radio airplay, said a senior executive at Madonna’s recording company, Warner Music Group Corp.
. . .
“I think it’s not inaccurate to say that the mobile campaign, and the ring tone in particular, was more effective in launching the single than radio airplay,” said Michael Nash, a senior vice president at Warner Music.
. . .
The growing importance of ring tones, along with other digital music products, is prompting changes in the way music companies identify new artists and bands and market music to consumers. Mr. Nash said the ring tone is now becoming a central part of the marketing strategy for an album or single.
He said Warner Music has charged its staff responsible for signing and managing artists with creating content in the studio that works as part of a whole digital package.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said mobile phones accounted for nearly 40% of digital-music sales in the first major year that full songs were available over the mobile phone. Ring tones account for by far the largest portion of mobile-phone music revenue, according to research released by Informa PLC.

As I’ve pointed out before, the rise of digital technology is forcing the music industry to find new business models. It appears that innovation and creating new markets (rather than criminalizing users) might just be the future salvation of industry.

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