Ringback tones: huge in Asia, but a flop in the West? That’s the common view within the music industry, even though one of the key companies in that sector – RealNetworks – claims that snatches of music played to people waiting for you to answer your mobile phone is still a $4bn global market. Now it’s hoping to popularise the idea among iPhone and Android owners in the West with a new app called Listen. It’ll launch in the UK this year through operator partnerships with EE and Virgin Mobile, with a US launch slated for early 2014. People will be able to use the app to assign ringback tones to different contacts, including matching songs available in RealNetwork’s catalogue with those already on their phone. “With our carrier partners we now have over 18 Million RBT subscribers, and the industry is estimated to be over $4bn globally,” said RealNetworks boss Rob Glaser. “But until now, nobody has really reinvented or re-imagined what RBTs can be in the era of smartphones.”

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