updated 04:15 pm EDT, Mon September 10, 2007
Sony BMG and Universal Music today fought back against declining sales of physical CDs with the concept of the "ringle." The album would include both the music of a traditional single, such as the main track and as many as two B-sides, as well as a ringtone edition of the song ready to use with a cellphone. Special deals will be in place to grant access to the ringtone when the CD is put into an Internet-connected computer. Prices would still be roughly in line with retail singles at between $6 and $7 each.
Most of the leading music retailers have already agreed to carry the ringle format at or shortly after the official launch, including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart. Whether or not the format will apply to online downloads is unknown but has not been ruled out.
The change may open the doors for iTunes and other online stores to create album bundles that include ringtones as part of their primary downloads. Apple recently introduced custom ringtones but so far requires that users already own a copy of the song before they can edit and purchase a custom ringtone version of a given track. Ringtone sales have typically been limited to cellular providers' own stores and have largely been omitted from other download outlets, due in part to separate licensing terms and the lack of certainty regarding permissions to use the ringtones with certain carriers. Apple and other stores have recently introduced "vingles" that include music videos or documentaries along with audio tracks.