Ringback tones—the music callers hear while waiting for the party they’re calling to answer the phone—are sounding less like Justin Timberlake and more like a cash register to wireless providers. Sales of ringback tones should triple to $4.7 billion by 2012, CNET reports. That’s almost what mobile games bring in, making ringback tones the second-most-lucrative premium service available.
“Ringback tones are quickly becoming the ‘golden child’ of the mobile music market, due to a winning combination of consumer popularity, and minimal impact from DRM or piracy,” said one researcher. What’s more, ringback tones—typically sold separately from full songs and ringtones—give wireless providers and recording companies an excuse to charge consumers a second time for songs they already own.