RealTime IT News

Warner Ringtones on Skype VoIP

Next time your Skype phone rings, let Madonna answer.

Warner Music Group today inked an agreement with Skype making the material girl its first featured artist available for downloadable ringtones at its online store..

Ringtones from current and future Madonna hits can be downloaded for $1.50, according to Warner spokesperson Amanda Collins.

"We are excited that more than 70 million Skype users around the world will now have the ability to enjoy content from Warner Music artists," Alex Zubillag, executive vice president of digital strategy and business development at Warner Music Group, said in a statement. The agreement marks the entertainment company's commitment to new avenues for music, according to Zubillag.

Revenue from ringtones is expected to reach $724 million by 2009, according to Jupiter Research. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com share the same parent company.) Worldwide sales of ringtones accounts for 36 percent of $1.10 billion earned from digital music, according to the International Federation of Phonographic Industries.

Following Madonna, Warner Music Group will offer Green Day, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, D4L, and T.I.

"As Skype continues to grow as a mass market phenomena, we are excited to partner with industry leaders in the entertainment industry, like Warner Music, to offer great content from artists, such as Madonna, to Skype's fast growing global user base," said Saul Klein, vice president worldwide marketing for Skype, in a statement.

"The prospects are limited," Dave Chamberlain, principal wireless analyst at In-Stat, told internetnews.com. "However, there is no reason why ringtones should live only in the cell phone," he said.

Skype's subscribers are likely the perfect audience for ringtones, according to the analyst. Skype users "are probably in good demographics" for Warner Music Group.

But those same demographics could pose trouble for music companies. Skype users are more technical and are likely to use MP3-based music on their PCs, Chamberlain said.

While ringtones for the 2 billion cell phone users could reach beyond $700 million by 2009, the same level of success can't be guaranteed with VoIP, according to the analyst. "It's not going to show up on the corporate balance sheet," said Chamberlain.

The analyst said commercial ringtones on VoIP handsets is just another avenue for distribution, just like CDs on boxes of cereal.