Warner Music Group has licensed hundreds of tracks to be sold as “alert tones” for Virgin Mobile USA.
Virgin is marketing the service as “text tones” to be played when their subscribers receive a new text message. Alert tones are shorter than ringtones, typically about 5 – 10 seconds long, that mobile phone users can assign to play when they receive a new text message or voicemail. Many carriers allow users to assign standard ringtones to these same alerts, but the industry believes there is demand for shorter song clips for these simple alerts.
Only Virgin subscribers with the operator’s now Cyclops mobile phone can buy and assign the WMG songs to the various alert functions.
Alert tones gained a bit of momentum earlier this summer when both WMG and Universal Music Group publicly announced they were converting their catalog of ringtones into shorter clips to be sold in the new format. Until the Virgin deal, alert tones have been limited to spoken-word clips from various celebrity artists, such as those provided by Sony BMG to T-Mobile.
WMG’s deal with Virgin is the first music-based alert tone service. Virgin has the exclusive rights to the WMG catalog through Nov. 14. Each tone costs $1.50.
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Wireless operator Alltel has become the latest to offer ringback tones to its subscribers via a deal with WiderThan, a company recently acquired by RealNetworks.
Alltel’s service charges a $1 monthly subscription fee. Ringback tones allow users to assign a song to play while callers are waiting for the line to connect.
Sprint, Verizon and Cingular all have established a ringback tone service.