We had pointed out the possibility of this at the time of the Gaana.com launch*, and now it’s happened: Gaana.com now allows its users to set their Airtel Hello Tunes, their Caller Ringback Tones (CRBT) service. CRBTs allow users to set which songs people calling them will listen to. In the present form, the launch is rather limited – to around 600 songs, according to Airtel. However, the mandate is gradually being expanded to cover Airtel’s entire catalog, Rishi Khiani, CEO of Indiatimes, told MediaNama.

“This is more of an advertising deal for us, and a test to see how the integration performs. Integrating CRBT was always a part of our monetization strategy. The discovery happens from the site, and whichever operator you’re on, you’ll be able to get a CRBT.” Airtel has come on board for six months as an advertiser, but going forward, it will be a commission plus advertising deal. “We’ll go across all operators,” Khiani said, adding that this will also be enabled in Gaana.com’s iPhone app.

At present, the advertising campaign includes the inclusion of Airtel’s top ten, an advertising banner on the sidebar, and the integration of the Airtel logo for enabling CRBT downloads.

I don’t think Airtel should have taken a limited approach this with just 600 songs, even as a pilot. The deeper integration to enable CRBT setting across enter catalogs makes sense for all telecom operators, given that regulations from TRAI have limited their ability to market CRBTs, both via SMS and Outbound Dialers. This is one way to address declining CRBT revenues.

Apart from this, finding songs to add as CRBT via the mobile has always been a pain – I remember being unable to find the song I wanted as a CRBT via mobile, and eventually using Rediff’s mobile music search to select a song. Telcos should integrate for CRBT setting with as many online and mobile music streaming sites and apps as possible, to maximise distribution. They’ll probably be looking at commission based deals any way. The upside for Airtel, a “subscription charge of Rs 30 for 30 days in all circles (except Rs 36 for MP and Rs 35 for Karnataka) and the charge for each hello tune download is only Rs 15 for 90 days”, is certainly worth it.

P.s.: I noticed that RHCPs “Dani California”, which is my CRBT on Airtel, isn’t there on Gaana.com

*Disclosure: Indiatimes, which owns Gaana.com, is an advertiser with MediaNama