Retroringtones Simplifies Ringtone Creation

by Jason Ankeny

While much of the fledgling mobile music market used mid-November's MobileMusiCon event to address the segment's future, content provider RetroRingtones instead chose to address a market void by announcing the launch of RetroFolio, a Web-based toolkit for music producers, copyright owners and wireless operators that promises to simplify ringtone production and delivery via asset management, file validation, WAP publishing and B2B distribution systems.

"The ringtone industry sprung up very quickly, and from a production standpoint, it is as complex in its way as TV/video production or publishing," said RetroRingtones Founder and President Thomas Dolby Robertson.

According to Robertson, traditional ringtone creation entails an intricate and often convoluted process involving e-mail attachments, Zip files and Excel spreadsheets. Even a small misspelling or coding error can wreak significant havoc, and when you add to the mix myriad network specifications and handset file formats, not to mention size limitations and memory limitations, the possibilities for market delays are seemingly endless.

"The irony is that ringtones have an unbelievably short shelf life," he said. "If some minor error delays you getting a ringtone into the marketplace by a week, you may be losing a large chunk of your sales."

RetroFolio offers all players in the ringtone supply chain the same centralized data, automatically analyzing and authenticating each file against current handsets and network specifications - about 50 ringtone formats and 224 handsets in all. The toolset houses metadata like song title, artist and vendor ID information as well as multiple versions and formats for each ringtone.

"Everyone logs into the same URL, and the order exists there, complete with all of its specifications," Robertson said. "The system itself validates ringtones by analyzing the data and checking that all of the parameters match up with the customer's requirements, then exports all the data in XML in a way that all the customer has to do is drop it into his own database."

RetroFolio targets many of the pain points still remaining in ringtone creation, said Adam Zawel, who directs the Wireless/Mobile Enterprise & Commerce Strategies group at Yankee Group.

"There may be more revenue to be won with ringtones, but [RetroFolio] is more about the costs that can be taken out," Zawel said. "Ringtones are a significant international business, but we've not had time to formulate a standardized approach."

RetroFolio is currently in trials with several European carriers, and RetroRingtones hopes to officially announce carrier deals in the next few months, Robertson said.