Rapper Rick Ross' ringtone is now a blingtone.
Ross received a plaque bearing a golden cell phone Wednesday when music industry officials honored 128 songs as the first batch of gold and platinum ringtones. Just like vinyl, tapes and CDs, the sounds of ringing cell phones will now translate into awards for sales of 500,000, 1 million and beyond.
"The ringtones are just another gateway to connecting with the kids and the fans," said Ross, whose award sported a shiny cell phone rather than the usual gold album. "That's just the next level."
Ross, whose first album comes out later this year, was cited for his best-selling single "Hustlin'." He was joined in the ring(tone) of honor by big-name acts like the Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, 50 Cent, Kanye West and others.
In all, 84 acts were cited as gold winners, 40 platinum and four as multiplatinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The awards are decided by how many ringtones have been downloaded.
"Just a few short years ago, it was unthinkable for sales on ringtones to go platinum," said RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol. "But here we are. We're transforming the way we hear our music."
According to industry experts, about 10 percent of music industry revenues worldwide now come from ringtones.
Rapper Bubba Sparxxx, who was cited for the gold sales, said he was unaware of the ringtones' popularity.
"I had no idea about the importance of ringtones," Sparxxx said. "But I do after coming here. I sold 800,000 ringtones. Now I know it's an exciting innovation."
Actually, Sparxxx has sold closer to 1 million — 939,858 by this week's figures, according to EMI Music, parent company of Virgin Records.
Ross said that when he goes into the studio in the future, the idea of making a popular ringtone will definitely be a part of the process.
"You want to do a record so catchy that everybody wants to go out and get it as a ringtone," he said.
Agreed Sparxxx: "I'll be more conscious of making exciting melodies to put on the ringtones."
Sparxxx noted another good reason for good ringtone quality: "It's a new revenue stream." A typical ringtone can cost up to $2.99.
The gold and platinum certification came under the title of "Master Ringtone," signifying that they were created from the original masters of the songs. The ringtones are sometimes a synthesized instrumental version rather than the artist's recording.