Recommended Reading: “Ring My Bell”

A wonderful article on cell phone ringtones by Sasha Frere-Jones. It is exactly what good writing on music technology should be: he covers the advent of ringtones, the exploding market for them, and their technological development from monophonic to compressed digital audio. He also talks about the interplay between what the medium of the ringtone offers from an aesthetic stanpoint, and how some musicians are specifically tailoring their music with ringtones in mind.

You do not need to read this, but if you have a few spare minutes you will be glad you did!

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/07/050307crmu_music

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2 Comments on “Recommended Reading: “Ring My Bell””

  1. CarmC Says:

    This was a very interesting article. Most people I know don’t use the polyphonic ringtones they get full versions of songs to play on their cell phone. How do they do that? Another big thing that is going on with music and cell phones is that most cells phones can double as an MP3 player, and there are ringback tones where when someone is calling you instead of hearing the phone ring as you wait for the person to answer the phone you hear a song. Everytime I call my friend Sam I get to hear 30 secs of led zeppelin. There is a significant difference in pricing from a ringback tone to a ringtone. I have verizon and the way it works for me is that if you want to purchase a ringtone it is one flat cost of 2 dollars and the ringtone last as long as you have the phone. When you purchase a ringback tone you have to pay 5 bucks every month to keep the ring back tone on your phone.

  2. mus243 Matt Says:

    Hi Carmella,

    There are a variety of ways to get ringtones onto cell phones. Here are two of the most common:
    1. Purchase them. This is generally the easiest and most common way, but it is also the most expensive. It’s not hard to see that companies see this market as one way to make quite a lot of extra money off their customers (such as the ring back service that costs five dollars a month).
    2. Make your own from a CD. It is possible and legal to turn a recording that you own into a ringtone. Different phones use different audio formats, but more and more are capable of playing MP3 files. My own phone can use an MP3, but it needs to be a short one (I think less than 30 seconds). Once you have made your own, usually on a computer, you then have to get it onto the phone. My own phone connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, or you can buy a USB cable to connect your phone to your computer, or you can often send a file to your phone via MMS.

    The big issue here is that each carrier and each phone model might have different specifications in terms of audio format, possibilities for connecting, and the cost for purchasing a ringtone or for receiving an MMS message. The cell phone market is built upon an inherent tension: phone makers want to sell you a phone that can do virtually anything, but phone service providers want to limit those phones so that the easiest thing to do is pay for something (making it easier to buy a ringtone than to simply add one).


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