Ringtone sales dropped in 2008

Research collected by SNL Kagan indicates mobile phone ringtone sales shrunk in 2008 as mobile phone subscribers learned how to acquire ringtones without making payments directly to the carrier.

The sales decline — which dropped 24 percent last year — was serious enough it marked the first time U.S. mobile music revenue posted an annual decline.  When compared to 2007, ringtone sales dropped from $714 million down to $541 million, according to the SNL Kagan report.

I chatted with quite a few people who use custom ringtones, but very few of them admitted they paid for the ringtone through their carrier.  The people I chatted with said they either recorded the ringtone themselves, converted a music file into a ringtone, or had a friend send them a ringtone.

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I usually have my phone on vibrate, but there were a couple of ringtones I heard that I was interested in purchasing.  I went online to find the price of the ringtones and decided against it because of the cost — a factor that many other wireless subscribers also take into consideration when looking for new mobile content.

Attempting to convince subscribers to stop creating their own ringtones for their mobile phones will be a difficult challenge, especially when many phone owners believe they shouldn’t have to pay for ringtones.

It appears record labels will finally lower the price of ringtones, which will help generate new sales to people who don’t pay for them today.  Furthermore, full-length MP3 tracks and ad-supported mobile streaming radio are expected to have a positive impact on phone subscribers looking to add new content.

Do you pay for ringtones?  If not, then why not?  Too expensive?  Lack of original ringtones?