The Sounds and the Business of Mobile Music
Ben Aslinger / Bentley College
Cell phone manufacturers and wireless carriers have tried to make the cell phone the preeminent convergent fetish, offering users an array of services in order to convince consumers to purchase the latest handsets and to upgrade their service plans. Though future revenues from the wireless distribution of television may in the future render music revenues chump change, the development of the ringtone economy was one of the first steps in exploiting wireless capabilities in delivering media content. As such, the development of mobile music economies deserve more attention from scholars interested in historicizing media convergence, television studies scholars interested in understanding how prior negotiations over intellectual property and revenue sharing influence the rollout of new forms of wireless media, and new media scholars interested in investigating rapidly shifting industrial and social definitions of the user. I want to suggest in this article that paying attention to the development of wireless music economies requires us to do two things: 1) to recognize the constitutive roles that aural and sonic texts play in establishing both the business arrangements and the aesthetics of convergence and 2) to recognize that we need to weigh and revalue the importance of the American market in light of the fact that the bulk of wireless commerce happens far away from Sprint and Verizon’s fiefdoms.
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