The Japanese company Modtones hires musicians to translate hit tunes and television themes into the beeps that announce you have a call on your cell phone. In Europe and Japan, customers have spent about $1 billion to have their ring tones customized with their favorite songs. In Japan, 80 million new ring tones are ordered every month, and 60 million are ordered in Europe.

You buy a new ring tone over the internet or with your cell phone. The new ring is sent to your cell phone over a wireless network and the fee appears on the next monthly cell phone bill. Thousands of ring tones are available from dozens of companies. Consumers can pick hits from almost any kind of music, and ring tone companies keep their own lists of top 10 hits. Verizon Wireless charges customers $9.99 for a package of 10 ring tones.

About 50% of Europeans under the age of 30 have downloaded their own ring tones, and phone companies think the U.S. will be the next big market. New phones are now available here that allow consumers to switch their old ring tones for new ones. In December, the number of U.S. downloads reached 1.5 million. Jay A. Samit of EMI says, “This is the largest growth area for music companies and our artists.” He thinks ring tone sales will make up 10% of the recording industry?s earnings in the future, which is a change from the past, when music downloading brought no revenue to the music industry. He says, “It’s finally easier to buy music than to steal it.”

Ring tone technology was started by the phone sex industry in Europe when they realized that the same process they used to bill customers for sex chats could be used for ring tones. Traditional telephone companies spotted the trend and started offering ring tones themselves. Older cell phones can?t play downloaded ring tones at all, while the newest phones have been designed to play more complex ring tones with a richer sound.

Did you know that music can heal and help you travel out of your body?

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