The Beatles have rocketed into the future of digital music by making licensed ringtones of their music available for sale, exclusively through iTunes. It’s easy for the digerati to mock today’s announcement, but take a look at the market size before doing so.

Gartner has done just that, and the research firm estimates that phone personalization products – the catchall term for ringtones, ringbacks and wallpapers – racked up sales worth over $2 billion during 2011. Or to be more precise, $2,172.8 million. That’s a lot of money being spent on something that most people with smartphones have forgotten even exists.

It’s a narrowing window of opportunity for the Fab Four, however. Gartner forecasts the mobile personalization market will shrink to $1,460.9 million by 2015, and the curve just continues downward after that.

The ringtones now available for sale are taken from the Beatles’ 27 No. 1 hits in the U.K. and U.S., including “Love Me Do,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Hey Jude,” “Yellow Submarine” and, appropriately enough, “Hello, Goodbye.” These are songs that are indelibly woven into the fabric of music history. Just imagine how much these tones would have earned if they’d been available in 2006.

Related links:

Press release –

Gartner – “Media IAS Online Music Forecast, 2011-2015: Social Media, Subscriptions and the Cloud