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Trends in Multimedia E-Commerce - Ringtone E-Commerce, Audio and Music

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Definition: Trends in multimedia E-commerce will always be a function of market factors and the cultural landscape. As such, several surprising and lucrative trends have dominated land-line and wireless multimedia e-commerce in recent times.

Ringtone E-Commerce

Ringtones are the sounds that are activated on cell phone when incoming calls arrive. In early cell phones tones were limited to a small set of just nine. Today’s cell phone have the capability to play monophonic (a single voice), polyphonic , and sampled (e.g. clips of actual recordings) ringtones. Initially a sort of “geek sub-culture” activity, ringtone e-commerce broke-out in 2003 as service providers and 3 rd party communications providers established e-commerce sites for ringtone download. Some experts estimate that consumers put down near $2 billion worldwide in that year alone for tones. Ringtone e-commerce revenue generally gets split between many business entities. Some of these entities are: the wireless provider, the music label, publishers, and the 3 rd party technology middlemen who provide. Validating the fact that ringtone e-commerce has come of age is the news that Billboard magazine now charts the 20 top-selling ringtones in its “Hot Ringtones” chart.

Other ringtone-related trends are currently in the pipeline. One is the trend towards the insertion of humorous “samples” into conversations (e.g. the voice of a celebrity impersonator). Another newer trend for 2005 is the combination of pleasing images to go along with a ringtone. For example, a pretty image such as a sunset of landscape pops up on the phones LCD screen simultaneously with the ring. Such clips and graphics will enable a similar download economy.

Audio and Music

Although music download e-commerce was happening before Apple introduced its iPOD line of mp3 players in 2001, Apple’s chic devices, marketing approach, and easy to use online (legal) music download site called iTunes are widely seen as sea-change events. Over 10 million iPODS have been sold since 2001 and while 2003 saw about 20 million legal song-downloads, 2004 saw 200 million. Research firms believe that 2004’s $330 million market for online music will double in 2005. While iTunes gets most press, there are many other ways to legally acquire audio and music online including: Napster, Real, download.com, eMusic, Walmart.com, mp3.com, and Amazon.com. Such stores replace the ‘first generation’ of illegal file sharing systems which allowed users to trade high-quality versions of songs online at no cost. Illegal file sharing ultimately led to the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) much-publicized lawsuits with individual uploaders. RIAA has thus far targeted principle sources (e.g. those users with more than 1000 songs on their hard drives) rather than casual users; however, their efforts are aimed to deter future abusers of copyrighted media.

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