The Sweet Sound Of Success

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SINGLE LIFE: In some markets, artists like Usher, left, sell more ring tones than singles

It was a gloomy December morning in Helsinki in 1997 when 26-year-old Vesku Paananen woke up with a hangover after a night of Koskenkorva vodka and beer. Paananen, a chief technology officer with new-media company Yomi Group, was jolted out of bed by the annoying ring tone of his Nokia 6110 mobile phone. "I didn't want to hear 'de de de de deeeee' ever again," Paananen recalls. "I wanted to hear Van Halen's Jump, and I was willing to pay for it." The technology was there to program mobile phones to play pop tunes rather than electronic bleeps, so he tried...

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