Monday, December 19, 2005

Ringtones, or the Auditory Logic of Globalisation

» Ringtones, Or The Auditory Logic Of Globalization
Related Topics: Mobile MusicPermalink - Comments (0) [by james]

Sumanth Gopinath, the Assistant Professor of Music Theory in the University of Minnesota School of Music, has written an extensive essay on ringtones, their place in the global culture and what they are symptomatic of. The abstract:

This essay attempts to provide a description of the global ringtone industry, to determine and assess the numerous cultural consequences of the ringtone’s appearance and development, and to situate the ringtone within the context of contemporary capitalism. At its broadest, my assertion is that the development of the ringtone is a powerful lens through which we might clearly view some of the dynamics of present day (or “late”) capitalist cultural production, including the development of new rentier economies within oligopolistic sectors of production and consumption, and a long--term shift in global productive dominance from North America to the Pacific Rim. The ringtone is also a remarkable cultural phenomenon that is demonstrating a high degree of popularity and is undergoing rapid transformation; therefore, its short, continuing lifetime already needs to be assessed historically.

Some highlights from the article include:
–With the industry's rising profitability, marketers have glommed onto the notion of personalization itself, almost treating the concept as a dogma within the world of wireless accessories - and trade industry journalists have predictably reproduced the idea with alacrity.
— The work of composing ringtones is not particularly glamorous: it is, in a sense, an updated form of writing jingles or advertising music whose product is mobile telephony itself.
— In a survey of a hundred professionals with mobile phones by the British PR agency Burston--Marsteller, 18 percent of respondents found the worst cell phone etiquette offense to be playing through all of your cellphone ringtones while sitting on the train.
— In many cases ringtone sales are outpacing recording single sales of the same song…
— A strong threat to the profitability of the ringtone industry lies in the development of strategies and technologies by consumers and companies to create ringtones at inexpensive prices.
(via Ringtonia)

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