The last quarter of the Twentieth Century had both individuals and groups in the Western World rallying for self-identity and self-expression. Relief came in the form of bumper stickers. This need for self-expression in the ever expanding high-density world we all live in was predictable.
The auto industry, in particular, took advantage of this need for individualism. They promoted and marketed individualism by reinforcing the idea that one's car was a reflection of one's personality. Since everyone meets on America's roadways, a car defines the owner and informs other people of his or her socio-economic status, the size of their family, whether you are free-spirited and outgoing or conservative and reserved. This drive for self-expression was easily transferred to what you put on your car as well. Voila - the birth of the bumper sticker.
There have been bumper stickers warning us of environmental cataclysmic events, informing us that someone's child is an honor student at Washington School Kindergarten, the proverbial "..it happens," and what to do with Osama Bin Laden. We also get to know a car owner's sexual orientation, whether they practice Wicca, whether they're pro-life or pro-choice, what political candidate they support and numerous other tidbits of personal information.
Bumper stickers have fallen fate to contemporary American culture's short attention span and have begun to fade away. Now what...where is there to turn for expression of one's individualism? We have been saved by ringtones, the coup of the mobile phone industry! They help meet modern culture's need for personalization and self-expression for a nominal download fee.
Bumper stickers had their heydey and now ringtones are having theirs. I don't think they'll be fading away any too soon, particularly now that we are getting to hear them in polyphonic sound! Also, there is nothing currently on the technology horizon to upset the growing ringtone trend except possibly some legal battles brewing in the record industry.
On this front there are a variety of third-party aggregators looking to make cover versions of popular songs and then create ringtones from these cover versions rather than the original version. This maneuver is legal as long as the licensing fee is paid. This maneuvering could potentially open up trademark infringement battles.
With ringtones bringing in $1 billion US dollars a year worldwide (Jupiter Research), it appears there is plenty of profit to go around.
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