ROCHESTER, NY — It's a familiar situation: You're in a crowded room a restaurant, a meeting, a theatre lobby when a wireless phone rings and 30 people within ear distance reach for their cell phone. But when that ringer sounds exactly like the song "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, it's very likely only one person is checking his/her purse or pocket.
"More and more customers want to personalize the sound coming from their wireless phones," said John Palmer, president of Verizon Wireless' Upstate New York Region. The wireless carrier has seen consumer interest for custom ringtones grow exponentially over the past two years. According to the Arc Group, a telecom consultant in London, global sales of ringtones reached $3.5 billion in 2003, a 40 percent increase over 2002. In several countries, Japan and Great Britain included, sales of ringtones already outpace those of conventional music singles.
"A unique ringtone helps a phone stand out and often says something about that person," Palmer explained. "That's why we offer so many choices."
Verizon Wireless customers can choose from thousands of music and audio clips. Everything from Outkast's "Hey Ya!" and "Love Shack" by the B-52s to the theme from "Rocky" or the Flintstones. "Hip-hop, rock, pop, disco, country, TV, movies, and the most recent hits, too," Palmer added. "We even have a lengthy list of college and professional team fight songs."
Verizon Wireless recently announced agreements that allow the company to distribute content from record labels EMI Music, BMG, Sony Music Entertainment, and Epitaph. The new service introduces a catalog of full fidelity songs from top artists, including Beyonce, John Mayer, Jessica Simpson, Coldplay, Pink, The Strokes, and Pink Floyd. The service features clips from actual songs rather than the polyphonic, synthesized renditions of songs that so far have led the market.
"These downloads are a compressed version of the original recording, including vocals, so users can download real music tones right from a Verizon Wireless phone with our Get It Now® service," said Palmer. "In addition, Get It Now customers can download additional media, including celebrity voice greetings and specialized voice tones (e.g., 'Paul, Paul, Paul, pick up the phone')."
Not only do downloadable ringtones allow consumers to customize their phones, they also provide artists and their record labels with a new revenue stream and a way to promote their latest releases.
"We're establishing close partnerships within the music industry," Palmer said. "We're providing them a new avenue to promote and distribute their artists, and our wireless customers get a fun service that is in hot demand."
Verizon Wireless is working with third-party application developers such as Ringster, Modtones and XRinger. These distributors also work with record labels and convert the music into various phone formats.
According to Palmer, the ringtones also serve to attract new customers and bring new services to the attention of current customers. "Many customers who download ringtones often try to download games, screen savers, and wallpapers for their phones. Ringtones open the door to sample other services and often function as an incentive for them to upgrade their handset."
Verizon Wireless, like other carriers, knows much of its ringtone-user base is under age 25. "Wireless phones are very popular within that hip demographic," Palmer affirmed. "They are very much on top of what's new and what's hot. Their cell phone is an important part of their lives and ringtones help add a personal touch. Not to mention the ever-present 'cool' factor."
Verizon Wireless customers can also program their phones to sound a different ringtone depending on who the caller is. Your gal pal calling? How about "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?" Is it the boss? Maybe the theme from "Mission Impossible" might be appropriate. Your video-game playing buddy? The Pac-Man music.
While you have thousands of music and other clips available to you, there may be one that is truly unique: the sound of an old rotary phone ringing.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 40.4 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To receive broadcast-quality video footage of Verizon Wireless operations, log onto www.thenewsmarket.com/verizonwireless.