Madonna and m-Qube have made it possible for the star's North American fans to download polyphonic ring tones and other licensed mobile content from her official Web site, across most major carriers a

Madonna and m-Qube have made it possible for the star's North American fans to download polyphonic ring tones and other licensed mobile content from her official Web site, across most major carriers and without the need for a credit card.

The mobile company said this was the first artist-driven online store to work directly with a content provider.

"Madonna sees the future of the music business tied intimately to the wireless space and doing this deal is the first step of many to utilize the robust capabilities of mobile phones," Madonna's manager Caresse Henry said.

Visitors to www.Madonna.com can purchase the handset-personalization products just by providing their mobile phone number and handset type. The charges appear on their wireless bill.

Andrew Miller, m-Qube's senior VP business development, said being chosen by an artist like Madonna validated his company's mobile storefront strategy and the importance of cross-carrier premium billing solutions.

"It's Madonna's music, so the store is going to be her way, on her terms," he said. "This is not through the label. This is working directly through the artist. When fans think of Madonna, they will think of the music and her Web site, not their phone company."

This approach is not suitable for all artists, he added, but is particularly appropriate for someone of Madonna's iconic stature. Participating in her own store also gives her a larger share of the proceeds because there is no label involvement.

Direct premium billing means that consumers who do not have or choose not to use a credit card are able to purchase the products. "In some territories we offer customers both credit card and carrier-billed options, and about 90% choose carrier-billed," Miller said.

M-Qube is headquartered in Boston with offices in Redmond, Wash., and Toronto. The company's strategic wireless partners include Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Nextel Communications, Cincinnati Bell Wireless, Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility, Microcell, SaskTel, MTS and Aliant Mobility.

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