Mobile Ring Tones: Where's the House Music?

Tony ZOn February 1, I moved out of my apartment in Carroll Gardens and into a new spot in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section. It’s a bit further out from the city than I’m used to, but I got a nice spot and my dog seems to be adjusting to it at about the same pace as I.

Now, I’m on the R line, which hooks up with an express N or D into Manhattan. Thought it would take me an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get to where I need to go, but with the express D running into Manhattan, I seem to be making the same time, if not better than on the F, which ran about 5 blocks away from my old apartment. The walk to the F took 5 or so minutes, but where I am now, the walk is half a block–just under a minute.

Interesting thing about the move this time. It forced me to take a look at my telecommunications options. Did I want to switch my standard ATT Home service to the new apartment, or should I just try and survive on the celly? With all the taxes and surcharges you pay for a home phone, plus long distance, it was costing me more a month for the phone in the house than the one I’m carrying around. I remember in the early 90’s it was the other way around. Carrying a cell phone was much more expensive. How times have changed.

Nokia 8265With Vonage, Lingo, AT&T and RoadRunner vyeing for my Internet telephony business, I figure I’ll forego the home phone and just survive on my mobile handset until I get settled into the new spot and sign up for VOIP service. I looked down at the Nokia 8265 I’d been carrying for the last few years and thought if I’m gonna go tech, I gotta get tech.

Trying to survive on cellphone alone meant an upgrade was in order. And if I was going to get a new phone, I knew it was time to join the rest of the early adopters and get myself a multimedia enabled phone, complete with features I’d never dreamed of having; mobile web browsing, bluetooth, ring tones, AOL Instant Messenger for mobile devices, screensavers and wallpaper.

Generally, I consider myself and early adopter, but as many EA’s who bought first generation Palm Treo’s are learning, sometimes it pays to wait and let technology adapt to the user and not the other way around, especially with Palm Treo’s pricetag: $499 a pop with service, $599 to $650 without. Palm’s recent product launch of the Treo 650, with more memory capacity and other features forced many early adopters onto eBay to rid themselves of now obsolete first generation devices. Trying to avoid that trap, I figured I’d wait it out to make sure I got all the features I’d need for a good price

Over the past year, I’ve noticed and explosion of multimedia enabled handsets in the hands of young people on the subway and in popular hangout areas like Starbucks at Astor Place in New York City. With that in mind, I headed down to the Cingular Wireless store in my new neighborhood, Bay Ridge, to port my AT&T Wireless service over to Cingular. An AT&T Wireless customer for 9 years, I’d renewed my contract for two years and had just over a year to go. If I switched to Verizon or T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless would have penalized me for cancelling my contract. The sales of AT&T Wireless to Cingular allowed me to purchase a new phone without being hit with a cancellation fee.

At the store, the saleswoman presented various handsets from Motorloa, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Siemans, and Nokia. I’ve been a Nokia mobile phone user since 1994, except for the time I purchased a Siemans phone in London from Virgin Mobile. It was a convenient way to have a cell phone in Europe and it didn’t require a contract. You could “top up” as they say in the Europe. Here in the US that translates to pay-as-you-go. It seems that most European mobile users are more used to the pay-as-you-go system than monthly service contracts we’re used to here in the US.

My last three Nokia phones were standard issue face dialing with a large, visible screen. Nokia’s user interface had always been a favorite of mine. Navigation was well thought out and designed for ease of use over bells and whistles. I rarely had a problem entering numbers into memory, checking the date, changing a ring tone and the like. The touch of a few buttons and voila, mission accomplished. The reason I started thinking of switching is because I’m tiring of the feeling I have to talk louder since the phone’s mic is so far from my mouth. And, my ear must be shaped vastly different from 99% of Nokia users their head sets are made for, because they never fit properly and end up falling out during a conversation or hurting my ear over time, instead of comfortably allowing me to talk hands free.

So, I thought it was time for a clamshell, where I could feel comfortable talking without feeling as though I have to shout while protecting the keys from inadvertently dialing someone if I sat on the phone (which I keep in my back pocket) by accident. I mean, who uses the “lock” feature anyway? I’ve always felt that locking a phone should take place on the top of the phone with one click and not a two-click keypad function (function then #).

After handling most of the sample phones in the store, I narrowed the choice down to the Sony Ericsson Z500a and Motorola V551.Motorola V551 I really wanted camera and video options, AOL Instant Messenger and the ability to download ringtones. Both phones had the features I was looking for, but the Motorola was the only one of the two that is Bluetooth compatible. I don’t need the Bluetooth feature today, but I’m sure at some point I might. The Motorola was bit lighter and its smooth finish felt more durable than the cheap plastic feeling I got holding the Z500a. Sony/Ericsson z500aThe Sony Ericsson phone was just a bit wider, and even though it had the ability to program and play ring tones, that wasn’t so important to me. I ended up going with the Motorola–that is until I uprade to the Palm Treo 650 down the road. I’ve had a Blackberry and I’m not impressed. It’s too wide and brick-like.

Having acquired the phone, I spent a night working through the UI to uncover the phones features and program the unit. My first impression is that new multimedia enabled phones take a lot longer to warm up, much longer than my Nokia 8265. With all the new features, mobile phones are becoming more like mini-computers, their operating systems enable various plug-ins and features as the phones power on. This is important for people who are concerned about personal security; you should try and keep your phone on at all times when walking down dark streets, because it takes more time for the phone to warm up when you turn it on and those 10 to 30 seconds could mean a big difference in a dangerous situation.

I also discoverd that dialing is a little trickier with the new Motorola. The tone for each key pressed, at times, seems to stick for a bit too long and the next key press doesn’t register correctly. So you have to clear the screen and type the number over again. This is another personal security issue. If you can’t quickly type 911 and press send without having to worry if the call is going to go through, then what good is having a mobile phone in the first place.

I’m guessing feature rich phones are winning out in the mainstream marketplace with users who prefer a cool gadget over security.

After learning the ins and outs of the V551, it was time to set a ring tone. Mobile phones have come a long way from the generic tones we are used to. A few years ago, when polyphonic ring tones came into existence, you would visit the service providers website, pick a track and it was sent to your phone wirelessly.

Today’s ring tones mostly emulate popular music, game tunes and funny or recognizable sounds. The tones are created by playing the keys of a mobile telephone as an instrument, then saving and recording the resulting melody. New multimedia phones come complete with web browsers enabling an Internet connection to your service providers’s mobile Internet site (in this case Cingular’s) giving you the ability to scroll through genre listings of ring tones licensed from third party ring tone providers, record labels or directly from the artists themselves through their publishing companies.

Generally an Electronic music fan, I first scrolled through Cingular’s list of Urban, Pop and Rock tracks and saw the latest popular songs and some second rate tracks from the usual suspects, but nothing caught my eye that I’d want to hear everytime my phone was blowing up in a public place. I personally didn’t want to be associated with 50 Cent when if I’d be interviewing for a position at New York Life Insurance Company.

Using my phones web browser, I navigated to the Electronic music area and was surprised to come across a couple of emulated songs as ring tones that I’m familiar with, but I was somewhat disappointed by the dearth of new material. I’m wondering, where is all the house music? I see techno, trance and downtempo stuff, but there’s nothing by Armand Van Helden, Eric Morillo, Louis Vega, Todd Terry, Roger Sanchez and the like. The closest you get to house is Basement Jaxx, and arguably they are moving into the pop realm, so I don’t even consider the track that’s available house music.

Also, the reliance on the Bjork, Chemical Brothers, Moby, Prodigy and Fatboy Slim gives you an idea of the mindset of Cingular’s Music Content Manager. One wonders if they think those artists represent Electronic music overall, or is that just the material available for licensing. If anyone knows the answer to this, I’d appreciate sending me an email.

It’s funny how in a place where you can really experiment with different music, you end up getting the same generic sounds marketed to you by the mainstream record industry. How much Moby can one really stand?

To give you an idea of what’s on the Cingular network, here’s a list of Electronic music ring tones (copied from Cingular.com) being offered:

  • 21 Seconds – So Solid Crew
  • Adagio For Strings (Barber’s) – William Orbit
  • Barbie Girl – Aqua
  • Believe – Cher
  • Big Time Sensuality – Bjork
  • Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
  • Block Rockin’ Beats – Chemical Brothers
  • Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Eiffel 65
  • Born Slippy – Underworld
  • Breathe – Prodigy
  • Busy Child – Crystal Method
  • Calm Before The Storm – Darude
  • Chateau – Rob Dougan
  • Chime – Orbital
  • Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Mix) – Rob D.
  • Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
  • Dancing Queen – Abba
  • Days Go By – Dirty Vegas
  • Deeper Underground – Jamiroquai
  • Don’t Stop – AtB
  • Drop A Beat – Moby
  • Everything Is Wrong – Moby
  • Face To Face – Daft Punk
  • Feel The Beat – Darude
  • Freestyler – Bomfunk MC’s
  • Gangster Tripping – Fatboy Slim
  • Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli
  • Glory Box – Portishead
  • Hyper-ballad – Bjork
  • Leave Home – Chemical Brothers
  • Little L – Jamiroquai
  • Mambo No. 5 – Lou Bega
  • Mindfields – The Prodigy
  • Natural Blues – Moby
  • Organ Donor – DJ Shadow
  • Out Of Control – Chemical Brothers feat. Bernard Sumner
  • Out Of Control (Back For More) – Darude
  • Plug It In – Basement Jaxx
  • Porcelain – Moby
  • Praise You – Fatboy Slim
  • Right Here, Right Now – Fatboy Slim
  • Sandstorm – Darude
  • South Side – Moby
  • Star Guitar – Chemical Brothers
  • Start The Commotion – The Wiseguys
  • Sweet Like Chocolate – Shanks and Bigfoot
  • We Are All Made Of Stars – Moby
  • Weapon Of Choice – Fatboy Slim
  • Who Let The Dogs Out – Baha Men
  • 19-2000 – Gorillaz
  • Come On Baby – Moby
  • Evening Rain – Moby
  • Everytime You Touch Me – Moby
  • Feeling So Real – Moby
  • Fernando – Abba
  • First Cool Hive – Moby
  • God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters – Moby
  • Hymn – Moby
  • Next Is The E – Moby
  • One More Night – Amber
  • Run On – Moby

Hear me out now…does Abba represent Electronic music? The Baha Men? Lou Bega? First of all, Abba should be in the disco section…not here. Second, Baha Men and Lou Bega should be in pop. And third, Milli Vanilli…ugh!!!! Disgusting! I’m sorry, I just have to choke for a minute to think that Cingular should allow any track by an artist who had their Grammy pulled for fraud offered through the service as a paid ring tone. The track should be pulled immediately, and if not, at least send it to the Pop section. “Girl You Know It’s True” isn’t considered Electronic music by any DJ I know. Back in the day, I marked the record as R&B in my record crates at the club.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Orbital’s revolutionary Acid House/Techno track, “Chime” on the list, as well as Moby’s “Next Is The E”. Those groundbreaking tracks, I feel, truly represent Electronic music history and will give young and old Electronic music fans alike pleasure hearing it everytime their phones ring.

I clicked on Chime and a few seconds later…shazam…I had my new “Chime” ringtone, which I love hearing everytime my phone rings. The best part is, when I’m in mixed company, people start bopping their heads and they ask me, “what is that…playing on your phone?” I haven’t gotten anyone yet who clearly knew the song, but that’s the joy of it because I feel like I have an insider knowledge (well…being a DJ for 25 years…I’m sure I’m an insider) of Electronic music that other people just don’t have. Through personal experience, I have the depth to know what Electronic music really is, and that’s reflected, in part, through the ring tone I chose. In the all important convergent media world, Cingular’s ability to speak to me directly and allow me to identify myself as a card-carrying member of the semi-elitest Electronic music clique is certainly admirable.

Through my experience, we can see how ring tones have impacted the music industry. From the label to the consumer, a new distribution system has been born. It works, is popular and has fast become an integral part of the Electronic music industries drive to legitimacy. Being able to surf an Electronic music section on the Cingular network and having a somewhat decent choice of ring tones gives Electronic music artists and DJs hope that the tracks they produce will go far beyond the dance floor, living rooms and lounges of the world’s dance music afficianado’s and bring them the dollars they deserve for creating music that moves people around the world. But small independent record labels and major labels need to get on the ball and start figuring out how to create ring tones from their music, so they can take part in this new revenue stream.

One major downfall is the fact that you can not listen to the ring tone before you purchase and download. Sure, you can go to Cingular’s site on the web and get a sample there, but when you’re rolling with your posse and you want to change tracks based on the mood of the evening, your not able to hear the song before you commit. That’s a problem. I’m waiting for the day you’ll be able to stream the tracks on your phone first, so you know what you’re buying.

I also purchased the Chemical Brothers “Star Guitar” ring tone, but didn’t really feel it sounded enough like the original to warrant the purchase. It’s not clearly apparent how to return a ring tone if you don’t like it, but you should be able to.

If anyone wants to hip me to the process, I’d appreciate it.

Tony Z

About Tony Zeoli

Tony Zeoli is a digital media strategist, innovator, and entrepreneur. He founded Netmix.com in 1995, which was considered by Billboard Magazine to be the "innovation and advancement of dance music on the Internet." Tony has innovated at the intersection of music and the Internet for the past thirty years as a project manager, product manager, information architect. He is also the founder of Digital Strategy Works, a WordPress web design and digital marketing agency in Asheville, NC.

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2 comments

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  2. WWE Wallpaper says:

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