too many words by laura lemay

a history of ringtones

Yet another good New Yorker article, this time about cell phone ringtones.{.broken_link}

A kid I met on the subway told me that his mother doesn’t like his new 50 Cent ringtone, “Candy Shop,” not because it features explicitly sexual rhymes but because it’s not as cool as “In Da Club,” a previous 50 Cent ringtone, which received Billboard’s first Ringtone of the Year award, in 2004. A karate teacher in his thirties told me that he spends ten dollars a month on ringtones, and currently has about twenty, most of them polyphonic renditions of Led Zeppelin songs. An architect in her mid-thirties said, “I spent three days of productive work time listening to polyphonic ringtone versions of speed metal, trying to find exactly the ringtone that expressed my personality with enough irony and enough coolness that I could live with it going off ten times a day. In a quiet room, in a meeting, this phone’s gonna go off—what are they going to hear?”

Last year I was aghast to learn that ringtone sales were $3.5 billion dollars worldwide; now they’re $4 billion. I’m still aghast. I fall into the old and deeply uncool demographic for ringtone use; I use a chopin piano concerto that doesn’t make me want to smash the phone every time it rings.

(I got it from slashdot.)