Ringtones, MySpace

Tangled Web: A weekly column featuring intriguing online music-related issues & destinations. This Week: Ringtones, MySpace

THE TELEPHONE IS RINGING: It seems anybody who owns a cell phone these days has also downloaded a custom ringtone of some sort. Sometimes they sound like a drum-machine or a computer synthesized version of a popular song, called polyphonic tones, that makes elevator music almost palatable. Other times they are actual clips from a song, known variably as realtones, truetones, songtones or mastertunes.

Call them what you will. The upshot is that they’re a fun and cheap way to express yourself and promote your favorite band. But too often it seems that wireless carriers just offer the same top 10 songs over and over again. It’s tough to find that song you want, one that separates you away from the thousands of phones that play "Drop It Like It’s Hot" whenever it rings.

The problem has been that wireless carriers in the U.S. control the access to the ringtone sites pre-stored on their mobile phones. Most wireless customers simply select the "Buy Ringtones" option on their phone menu to browse for something acceptable. But there are several other options available to those willing to do a little hunting and pecking:

• Katazo.com offers various polyphonic tones from the likes of Kanye West, Simple Plan, Marilyn Manson and Las Ketchup for customers of AT&T/Cingular and T-Mobile.

• Meanwhile Freeze.com offers much the same, providing tones from artists like Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Vanilla Ice and even the Law & Order TV theme, but also for Sprint customers as well.

• Amazingly-Free.com researches all sorts of free-stuff opportunities, and its coverage of ringtones are no exception. In fact, free ringtones is so far the most requested category this year. It provides links to various U.S. and European sites that directly send ringtones to compatible phones.

Generally, the sites ask users to select their mobile phone provider and furnish the phone number, then send the ringtone directly to your phone. Most promotional sites that only support select phone on AT&T/Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and sometimes Nextel. Verizon Wireless uses a different content delivery system that does not allow its subscribers to bypass its "closed garden" content options.

QOTSAMAKE SPACE: Fans who have been waiting for the new Queens Of The Stone Age album "Lullabies to Paralyze" have been able to a sneak peak for more than a week before its March 22 release by visiting myspace.com/queensofthestoneage. The lifestyle portal, famous for its blog hosting services, has had the exclusive worldwide debut of the album, with tracks are available via streaming audio only, but listeners can pass on the link to friends in the MySpace network.

QOTSA is one of the largest acts using the MySpace portal to gain traction for its music, but it's far from the only one. More than 180,000 other artists upload songs, promote concerts and connect with fans via the blogs, bulletin board and messaging services available at the site.

MySpace has a dedicated section of its portal focused on music. It includes a featured artists section as well as a pick of the week from Filter Magazine. Other artists with music available on MySpace include My Chemical Romance, Beck, the Mars Volta, Green Day, the Killers, Jimmy Eat World and the Reverend Horton Heat, among others.