Apps & Mobile

Verizon To (Finally) Kill Ringback Tones Later This Year [Video]

At one time an excitingly customizable innovation in cell phone tech, Verizon is bringing down the axe on its formerly popular ‘ringback tones’ later this year.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

After bringing Ringback Tones to the masses at the turn of the century, Verizon is now killing the once profitable (and always frequently annoying) tech.

Capitalism tells us that every idea is only as good as it is profitable. A great example of this comes from custom ringtones. Once companies knew people would pay for a new ringtone, an entire marketplace of sound came into existence. It was so popular that Verizon decided to take a chance with ringback tones, and until this October, it was also a success.

Ringback tones were the opposite of ringtones. Consumers could change the sound (ring) that played whenever someone called them, which meant musicians and labels could sell short clips of popular songs to replace the traditional ring-a-ling that previously dominated the market. The game-changing tech hit the market in 2004, and by 2006 it was unavoidable. You would call your friend to tell them exciting news, but first, you’d sit through a short Kanye West clip. It was…Frankly, it was weird.

The clips were popular for a brief moment. In 2008, ringback sales began to decline. AT&T stopped offering a ringback service in 2011, and Sprint ceased ringback operations a few years later. The functionality for a brief second wind overseas, but the worldwide sales continued to drop as fewer and fewer people used their phones to make calls.

This week, on August 31, Verizon put what we can assume is the final nail in the ringback coffin with the news the company told customers that it too would cease ringback offerings. An announcement on the Verizon website reads:

Effective October 31, 2020, Verizon will be discontinuing Ringback Tones and Playlists. Your existing subscription(s) and any Ringback Tone(s) you purchased from the Media Store will be automatically removed from all lines on your account, and you will no longer be charged a subscription fee for this feature.

Considering its role in popularizing ringback tones, Verizon’s decision to stop offering them to customers seems telling.

In this Music Biz News update, host James Shotwell shares the history of ringback tones, why they’re going away, and what history will remember about these well-intentioned, but frequently annoying existence.

Two additional carriers, T-Mobile and MetroPCS, continue to offer ringback tone subscriptions through third-party apps. They future outlook for these services is bleak to say the least.

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