Corinna Kelber, media and culture expert at the Future Research Institute in Frankfurt said the trend which quickly established itself as a multimillion euro business centred on the Berlin company Jamba, has been usurped by new understated mobile phone fashions.
“At the time mobiles all looked the same, so users needed something to distinguish themselves from the masses – to make them seem original and individual,” she told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.
That provided the niche for ringtones, which expanded enormously as soon as phones had been produced with the ability to play MP3 files in 2004. Suddenly the ringtones came squawking, shouting and singing out of the woodwork.
By 2006, people were buying 30 million ringtones each year, according to figures from Bitkom, the German association of information technology and new media.
But in 2007 the ringtone industry crashed – mobile phones and the networks serving them had evolved beyond them, and users were able to download entire songs rather then just clips.
Kelber also told the paper that the “massive commercialization” of the ringtones had taken their reputation to, and arguably beyond, the limits of acceptability. Adverts flooded music television channels, while consumer protection groups questioned the acceptability of some of the subscription deals customers were signing up for.
The ringtone orgy is over, said Kelber – people have their smart phones, and the fashion is for more subtle tones or simply just vibrations to signal a call or text.
“Adults who these days still go for the loudest, shrillest and original ringtones realize pretty quickly that they simply embarrass themselves,” said Kelber. Amen.