Do-it-yourself ringtone software encroaching on potential profits, some record labels say
New software that lets anyone create unique cellular phone rings for free has some record labels worried it will kill the cash cow that is the ringtone, reports The Mercury News.
"The software, called www.Xingtone.com, evokes the same "oh wow, oh no'' reaction from the labels that greeted the original Napster. The fear is that people will make ringtones out of pirated songs, thus compounding the file-sharing problem while robbing the music industry of a new source of revenue.
[...] Until now, cellular phone carriers and music publishers have been the biggest beneficiaries of the ringtone trend. That's because most of the ringtones sold have been computer-generated compositions of popular songs. The record labels -- and by extension, the performers -- only get paid when someone buys the computerized version of a song.
The ringtone market is poised to explode with a new generation of mobile phones capable of playing actual recordings. Larry Kenswil, president of eLabs, Universal Music's new media and technologies division, predicts the global market for these real-sounding ringtone songs will be "massive.''
Some cellular phone networks, such as Verizon Wireless, have taken steps to block songs they don't sell. Sprint PCS has opted not to; saying that software like Xingtone stimulate demand for wireless data services.
Xingtone's president, Brad Zutaut, said there is nothing ethically or legally wrong with people taking a snippet of a song they own -- or indeed any other audio artifact, -- and transferring it their own phone.
"It's not just about music. It's about audio. These are 10-second alerts,'' said Zutaut. "Why shouldn't it make you smile when your phone goes off?'"