Phone tones ring £70m change to charts music

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The Independent Online

Britain's youth would now rather spend their pocket money on a new ring-tone for their mobile phone than on buying the latest music on CD.

Britain's youth would now rather spend their pocket money on a new ring-tone for their mobile phone than on buying the latest music on CD.

Official recognition of the extraordinary rise of a cultural phenomenon that may come to the rescue of the stricken music industry will emerge next week with the publication of the first "Ring Tone Chart".

The chart, which is backed by the British Phonographic Industry and is being compiled by the accountants KPMG, will highlight an industry that has grown toabout £70m within the UK. Singles sales were worth only £63m last year. The rise of the ring-tones has been driven by technological advances that mean mobile phones can reverberate to the sound of the original music recording.

Ralph Simon, who founded Your Mobile, the company that introduced ring-tones to the UK six years ago, said the sound of a person's phone was an indication of their character. "People don't buy the music so that they can listen to it like they do a CD at home. It's something that you would want to play to friends or work-mates as your social identifier," he said.

Although the latest pop hits are also among the most in-demand ring-tones, many mobile phone users are choosing to align themselves with familiar theme tunes from film and television.

The themes to Only Fools and Horses, The Simpsons and the macho "Eye of The Tiger" from the soundtrack to the film Rocky III and seasonal tunes like "Summertime" are rivalling pop-chart favourites such as Frankee and Eamon. The American singer Beyoncé Knowles has sold more than half a million ring-tones of each of her last two releases in the UK, the equivalent of a gold disc.

A growing proportion of Britain's 45 million mobile phone users are willing to part with around £3 for a "true tone" ring-tone, which is in effect a 30-second soundbite of the original recording. The technology even allows for phone owners to have one ring-tone for calls from their boyfriend and another for when they are being rung by their mother.

Britain has emerged as one of the strongest European markets for the trend, alongside Finland, which is the home of the mobile telephone giant Nokia.

Mr Simon said: "What's happening in Europe is that for the first time you are seeing more ring-tones sold than singles. There is a growing awareness that mobile music is becoming an ... imperative for the future of the music business, which is going through tough times."

Britain is now set to beat the United States to having an official ring-tone chart. The first ring-tone top 20 will be published in the magazine Music Week next Monday.

David Simmons, chairman of the Mobile Entertainment Forum Ring Tone Initiative, first had the idea for the chart two years ago. "There was this huge intellectual gap between the mobile phone industry and the music industry, which was reading about the growth of this new business but not seeing any of the cheques."

Calum Chace, a director of KPMG, said that unlike the unsophisticated "plonkety-plonk" early ringtones, which only generated publishing royalties for the music industry, the radio quality sounds now available commanded far more substantial mechanical royalties.

Ajax Scott, editor of Music Week, said: "The music industry has always been about selling records, concert tickets and merchandise. Technology is changing all that."

MOST POPULAR RING-TONES

Frankee, FURB (FU Right Back)

Eamon F**k, It (I Don't Want You Back)

50 Cent, PIMP

George and Ira Gershwin, Summertime

Mission Impossible Theme

Only Fools And Horses Theme

The Simpsons Theme

Survivor, Eye of the Tiger

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