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Cingular, MySpace, InfoSpace join as ringtone providers
Seattle Times technology reporter
The hottest trends on the Internet and in wireless collided on Thursday when Cingular Wireless, InfoSpace and MySpace.com announced a new partnership that allows undiscovered talents to create and sell their own ringtones.
The announcement took place at CTIA Wireless 2006, the annual conference that attempts to identify the newest directions in the industry.
The service, called Cingular Mobile Music Studio, is being managed by Bellevue-based InfoSpace.
It allows bands with MySpace profiles to turn their music into a ringtone, even if they don't have a record contract. The ringtone is then sold on the band's profile page to help promote its music and to make money.
During the luncheon where Mobile Music Studio was announced, Shifter, an Australian indie band, performed its song "Butter," which is the first ringtone made available through the service.
CTIA Wireless 2006
CTIA, the U.S. Wireless association, hosts an annual convention bringing together carriers, operators and other players from within the industry.
Facts: Almost 1,000 exhibitors are expected to attract more than 35,000 attendees from 90 countries.
Keynotes include: Time Warner Cable's CEO Glenn Britt; Sprint Nextel's COO Len Lauer; Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin; NTT DoCoMo's Masao Nakamura; Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila; PayPal's President Jeff Jordan; Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee and MTV Network President Van Toffler.
Local companies participating: T-Mobile USA, RadioFrame Networks, SNAPin, Wireless Services, InfoSpace, UIEvolution, MSNBC.com, Junxion Box, Airbiquity, RealNetworks, Action Engine, Medio Systems, Volantis, Microsoft, Inrix, Qpass, M:Metrics, Mophone.
Before the shaggy-haired crew of rockers performed, the lead singer said enthusiastically: "If everyone downloads our song, we'll have 54 million people sending us messages on MySpace, and I will have to spend hours responding to everyone."
The service, which became available Thursday, underscores the importance of self-produced content like music, photos and blogs.
Cingular, based in Atlanta, previously launched a service with MySpace that allows users to receive text messages when an update has been posted to their MySpace profiles. Cingular said another feature, which the company isn't ready to talk about, will likely come out in the fall.
Although InfoSpace didn't work with Cingular on the alert feature, it recently launched a new service with the carrier to create ringtones based on the hit TV series "American Idol."
After the show ends, InfoSpace finds the best 30 seconds of each song performed and turns them into ringtones available by the next day.
The MySpace service will work in a similar fashion. The artists will submit their songs; a panel of judges will determine whether the content is original, and then turn it into a ringtone.
Steve Elfman, InfoSpace's executive vice president of technology and operations, said it will take the company about 72 hours to process each one.
Artists will then be able to link to the ringtone from their MySpace profile. The ringtone will cost the standard $2.50, with 25 percent of the proceeds going to the artist. InfoSpace will also get a share; MySpace will not.
By late Thursday, almost 3,000 people had already previewed the Shifter song on the band's profile page.
"You can start to understand the impact for the artist," said David Garver, Cingular's executive director of marketing. "Maybe [Shifter] can get out of their van and into a bus."
Artists will receive checks quarterly as long as the money exceeds $100. If the minimum is not reached, the money will roll over to the next period. The studio service is considered a beta launch, while all the parties involved begin to understand how it may catch on.
MySpace, owned by News Corp., is immensely popular. The site is centered around social networking, where friends can meet, share photos, videos and thoughts about anything.
The site has about 68 million members, including 1 million bands. MySpace signed a deal recently with Helio to make the site more accessible on phones.
"The discovery of emerging artists by our users and the ability for bands to reach committed fans has always been integral to the MySpace experience," said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace's chief executive, in a statement. "The Mobile Music Studio allows this to happen in a way that seamlessly blends the online and offline experience."
Analysts in the audience questioned how easy it will be to maintain the program — a lot of bands may be using elements of copyrighted material and the submissions could become overwhelming.
"We know there's hundreds of thousands of bands out there," Garver said. "The community we've launched today is in beta, so we want to get to understand the volume."
To help, bands will only be able to submit one ringtone each.
So far the text-message-alert program that Cingular launched about a month ago has generated about 2 million messages.
"Who knows what the volumes are going to be, but we are a big believer in user-generated content," said Brian McManus, InfoSpace's executive vice president of sales and business development.
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company