Back in the day, setting a hit song as your ringtone represented the height of sophistication. A standard jingle simply wouldn’t cut it. Nowadays, the opposite is true; a popular tune blaring out of your phone every time it rings is likely to be met with awkward glances and second-hand embarrassment.

The meteoric rise and subsequent collapse of the ringtone market took place within an extremely short timeframe, but it was extremely lucrative during its peak. Let’s take a closer look at this very modern phenomenon.

The Rise of Ringtones
The rapid growth of the mobile phone market in the 1990s made customisation a priority for many users. Ericsson and Nokia were pioneers in giving customers the ability to change their phone covers, and soon came the ability to create custom ringtones.

Initially, monophonic tones had to be typed straight into the phone, which prompted the brief existence of a niche market for keypad code books and websites. Polyphonic and truetone sounds soon emerged, and a new market for the exchange of complex and realistic ringtones was born.

Peak Popularity
The market grew rapidly during the early part of the noughties, with a peak level of annual worldwide sales occurring in 2004. That year, over $4 billion worth of ringtones were purchased. The Japanese, North American, and European markets were particularly lucrative. Like all good things, however, the world’s fascination with ringtones was about to come to a dramatic halt.

Fall from Grace
After a record year in 2004, worldwide sales slumped by half the following year. Experts estimate that the US ringtone market reached its peak in 2007, but a combination of factors have led to its general decline.

Firstly, it became a lot easier for people to create their own ringtones with free online software. This removed exclusivity from ringtone sellers. Secondly, tones were grossly overpriced, and often more expensive than buying the full track. Customers became tired of paying a premium for the product. Finally, like the majority of trends, customised ringtones simply fell out of fashion. Savvy owners switched to standard tones, saving money whilst remaining bang on trend!

The Ringtone Market Today
There remains a small yet persistent market for ringtones. As recently as 2011, the sub-sector held a third of the online music industry’s sales. Although they are now firmly in the minority, there still exists folks who delight in hearing their favourite song whenever the phone rings!

Whether you’d like to reinvigorate the ringtone industry, or take less of a controversial route, Music Production Schools has all the information you need about pursuing education, training, and a production career.