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Name: Adam Bernard
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The Ringtone Revolution
Friday, May 19, 2006

In Hip-Hop the rings MC’s and producers are looking to sport right now have nothing to do with jewelry. In 2006 it’s all about rings of a different kind as the latest wave to sweep the Hip-Hop world involves music blasting out of one’s phone rather than a set of speakers. Yes, for many artists it’s all about the ringtones. brokeMC of the Mindspray crew jokes that for artists “it's the new gold chain.” His fellow Mindspray crew member Domer reasons “ringtones are the new radio, or the new mixtape. They're broadcast in a semi-public, semi-personal way. They’re selected by individuals but heard by many.” While they may be heard by many how valid is the idea that people will be searching for new music with their ringtone in mind?

Conscious, an MC / Producer who runs FreeHipHopNow.com, feels “there will be spill over into the discovery of new music by this means and it will serve to help artists gain new fans.” Domer agrees, adding that the idea is one of slow growth rather than an instantaneous boom. “If one person digs my track and downloads the ringtone then all of their friends will be exposed to it on every ring. That's the viral aspect, it's on a personal one-on-one basis. I'm all about that personal hand-to-hand spreading of the new hot shit. I don't want to learn about a cool new act from MTV, I want to hear about it from my friends.” brokeMC feels that the current ringtone climate is one that favors the already popular artists but, like Domer, he feels it’s growing in the right direction. “Right now, people seem to be looking to hook up their phones with sounds from their favorite artists,” he notes “but the medium is expanding and so are the options.”

Hopping on board while the medium is expanding is the only way to be on board first, and Conscious feels that no matter how many people download his ringtones, which are currently available at Zingy.com, it’s a step in the right direction. “There's nothing like branding your music via one of the most accessible tools in this digital age,” he extols, “when making an attempt at cornering your market in entertainment as an independent artist it only makes sense to get involved in one of the most active forms of new media technology today. Using ringtones to help push forward your brand and tattoo the world with whatever movement you're behind is similar to how any large corporation would approach their targeted advertising market by way of the newest advances of this tech era.”

The undeniable urge to be on top of things musically and always being the first to know the next big thing is something Domer, who’s launching his own ringtone company, Battletones, feels will help independent artists in the ringtone world. “People choose whatever they're most into and put it on their phone. It’s a way to share new shit you dig with the people around you. If someone's phone goes off and you're like, ‘that sounds kinda fresh, what is that?’ That's a cool thing for both of you.”

There is one issue with ringtones, however, and that’s the fact that it’s never a full song. A ringtone is very different from a single. Domer notes a ringtone is “a way of showcasing a particular moment in a song, a catchy hook, a dope line, a hot breakdown, sort of like the original Hip-Hop idea of isolating the dopest breakdown and turning that into the song.” So while an MC can’t necessarily fit a full 16 onto his ringtone, he can fit his best four or eight bars on there to give potential fans a taste.

Goals for ringtone creators range from brokeMC’s “fans, fame, bitches, whips, an icy grill, and a pet koala,” to Conscious’ want to “give my audience something else.” brokeMC notes that realistically his goals are pretty simple, he just wants to get some more exposure. “Being an independent/underground artist I move a lot of my product hand to hand and money doesn't necessarily stack up quick,” he explains “ringtones are a huge market right now and the sales are incredible. It seems to be a viable way to gain quick exposure with the youth market.”

For musicians of all types the ringtone market is growing rapidly. Conscious notes that in addition to where his ringtones are already listed “I'm also dealing with Decent Xposure, currently working out a situation to provide artist sites and ringtone distribution through FreeHipHopNow.com. Ultimately, the aim is to educate independent artists about the various channels they can consider to get their music heard as well as creating multiple streams of income with their music instead of cramming to figure out how in the world they are going to sell one million albums hand to hand.” Domer is even contemplating going the mobile route for his next album, saying “I'm talking to a ringtone company that is launching a mobile-fueled record label about releasing my next EP.”

Whatever an artist’s goals are it’s clear that a shiny grill and platinum chains are no longer the hottest accessory in Hip-Hop. Right now the true representation of one’s fame is how many phones are rockin your ringtone.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:31 AM  
  • At 9:12 AM, Blogger Conscious said…

    Good lookin on this one!

  • At 10:20 AM, Anonymous brokemc said…

    I wanna date the 'Snorg Tees" girl.
    what's good?

  • At 7:05 PM, Blogger Ketchums said…

    Didn't read the whole thing, but I'll finish it up later...I liked what I read though, esp. the intro.

    I phased out from the ringtone fever once I got my Blackberry, because as far as I know, there's no way to get free ringtones on there. These days, I go with one of the standard rings that comes on the phone.

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