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Appropriate Music for Callers 'On Hold'?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the if-you-have-to-wait-you-may-as-well-groove dept.

Businesses 339

RiBread asks: "I work at a startup, and as such wear many hats. Right now I'm trying to make sure our phone system is useful. One of everyone's biggest complaints is the cheesy music that plays when someone calls in and is put on hold. The stunning MIDI rendition of 'Home on the Range' they hear vies only with the ice cream truck and 'It's a Small World' for its ability to infuriate. I found out we can hook up a CD player to the phone system to alleviate this, but the real question is now: what do we want to play? What's the best 'on hold' music you've heard? (comments with links to samples of music will be most appreciated)"

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Startup? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9514967)

Let me get this straight, you work at a startup and this is what your worried about?

Variety (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#9514974)

Put actual music on there, and change it. Not stuff that only appeals to a small audience - stuff lots of people like. Blue Man Group, Beatles, ABBA ... or whatever. Licensing might be an issue; I don't know. But don't put on Ride of the Valkries and Beethovens 9th 300 kajillion times in a row.

Classical music is good (5, Informative)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 9 years ago | (#9514978)

Classical music is good, but don't forget about copyrights. Although the music itself may be in the public domain the performance may not be.

Re:Classical music is good (1)

gcaseye6677 (694805) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515252)

I don't see how playing music on hold is any different than playing it in your waiting room. I know entertainment establishments have to have a license to play music from the major labels, but I don't think this applies to any and every business.

Re:Classical music is good (2, Informative)

bakes (87194) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515403)

It might or might not be considered different. In Australia, you need a license from APRA in either case.

You can't even play a radio (where fees are already paid by the radio station for each song) in the waiting room without a license. If you have a radio playing at your desk, or in a workshop, that's ok - as long as no customers can hear it.

They have some stupid rules.

Re:Classical music is good (5, Informative)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515610)

Yes, you need to license your hold music in America.

BMI Records on Music On Hold [bmi.com]

Although, most people buy tapes and CDs thinking they are now their property, there is a distinction in the law between owning a copy of the CD and owning the songs on the CD. There is also a difference between a private performance of copyrighted music and a public performance. Most people recognize that purchasing a CD doesn't give them the right to make copies of it to give or sell to others. The record company and music publishers retain those rights. Similarly, the music on the CDs and tapes still belongs to the songwriter, composer or music publisher of the work. When you buy a tape or CD the purchase price covers only your private listening use, similar to the "home" use of "home" videos. Once you decide to play these tapes or CDs in your business, it becomes a public performance.

Songwriters, composers, and music publishers have the exclusive right of public performance of their musical works under the U.S. copyright law. Therefore, any public performance requires permission from the copyright owner - or BMI - if it is BMI-affiliated music. With a BMI Music Performance Agreement, you can publicly perform all BMI-affiliated music.

Britney Spears (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9514980)

Once you put them on hold, they'll never make the mistake of calling again.

Re:Britney Spears (2, Funny)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515326)

> Once you put them on hold, they'll never make the mistake of calling again.

Oops! I did it again!

I mean... yeah... you can shoot me now.

Anything by Alice Cooper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9514982)

Any of his stuff should work well for this. I imagine "Chop, Chop, Chop" and "Time to Kill" would be especially appropriate.

The only choice (0, Redundant)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 9 years ago | (#9514984)

All Primus/Sausage/Col. Les Claypool's Fabulous Flying Frog Brigade

All the Time

(except when you're playing Rush)

Popular? no. It will change your customers' attitudes though.

The smart ones, at least...

Re: Appropriate Music for Callers 'On Hold'? (1)

ion_ (176174) | more than 9 years ago | (#9514988)

Re: Appropriate Music for Callers 'On Hold'? (1)

halohell (618564) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515098)

Ahh in which case I'd put the speakerphone up to 10 and allow everyone else to enjoy as well. :P


Re: Appropriate Music for Callers 'On Hold'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515233)

Yawn, that's easy listening. Try Merzbow [furious.com]. He has a 50-CD box set out I believe.

They'll think the phone is broken. Or at least they will come to believe that their flesh is on fire and that the only way to find relief is to immediately commit suicide in the most anguishing way possible. At least that's how I felt when I listened to a few seconds of Merzbow. I had a stop button.. your callers will not be so lucky.

On second thought, stick with the Neubauten.

If you can use a CD Player... (1, Insightful)

rritterson (588983) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515002)

why not an iPod? 10000 songs, just put it on repeat and shuffle, and off you go.

On a side note- muzak is intended to be calming for everyone. Instead it's annoying. All other music is written for a specific audience, so no matter what you play, someone won't like it. i say load the iPod with some of everything.

Re:If you can use a CD Player... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515023)

I don't quite see what an iPod has to do with anything. Congrats on the troll.

Re:If you can use a CD Player... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515038)

Or just an mp3 CD player with a CDR full of mp3s. It's not like you're going to be updating the music library all that often anyway, why not save a couple hundred bucks? Heck, unless callers are regularly on hold for more than an hour, a plain old CD player and a CDR with a decent variety of music should be enough.

Re:If you can use a CD Player... (4, Informative)

dan_bethe (134253) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515236)

The reason is because you can't get the copyright permission on the public performance of those 10,000 songs. Music on hold (MOH) is a public performance, and companies sell specially licensed collections for that purpose. It's similar to libraries of background music for radio and tv.

Re:If you can use a CD Player... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515522)

Believe it or not, an iPod isn't the answer to every damn thing that involves music.

It's like the python people, that have to post about it in every story that is REMOTELY related to it.

Besides, it's illegal, not meant for 18-24 hour/day operation and would make it difficult, if not impossible, to include realtime status updates between/during songs.

Thoughts (1)

jtheory (626492) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515005)

Well, I'd check out the legal aspects of using commercially produced music like that... but that said, you want something that's relaxing but crisp, no vocals (or minimal)... possibly approachable jazz/swing?

Ever heard of Pink Martini? Some of their songs would be the perfect hold music. No specific genre (but vaguely retro), non-threatening to most.

Something that is easy to ignore (3, Insightful)

m000 (187652) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515017)

...while I do real work. I didn't call to listen to music, it just serves as a reminder that you haven't hung up on me.

Classical. (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515037)

The hospital I work at uses classical music for the hold music. They used to also offer an option for employees with offices to hit a button on our phones and listen to the music. It was a nice setup. But, yeah. Classical is great for hold music.

When I was in high school (Such a long time ago. About 3 weeks ago) they piped some low volume classical into the halls during classes. They claimed it had a calming effect on the students and helped them learn.

Some of my customers... (0)

CliffH (64518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515042)

.. use marketting material for their hold music. At the very least, customers are reminded whom they are on hold with and what specials and products/services you offer. I thought it was a good idea...

Re:Some of my customers... (1)

Yynatago (734843) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515090)

Thats almost as bad as telemarketing! Especially when you're making a complaint.

Re:Some of my customers... (1)

Hamster Of Death (413544) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515173)

This annoys me to no end.
If I'm on hold, DON'T try and sell me crap, just answer my call ASAP. If you try and sell me more crap I'll most likely put you on my list of companies I refuse to deal with and this will be the last call you get fom me.
If you want to be informative, fine tell me how I can get information pertaining to my call.
I need a phone #? Ok, press 3 there's a list of office phone numbers.
I need your address? ok press 7 etc etc.. but DON'T try and sell me something.

Re:Some of my customers... (1)

gcaseye6677 (694805) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515309)

Please don't do this! Dear god, its annoying. I know it seems like a good idea that might even be helpful to people, but its always annoyed the crap out of me. I guess its the whole captive audience thing. The one thing worse than advertisements on hold are those damn commercials played in grocery stores now. At Chicago area Jewel stores, they have replaced the boring music for super annoying high volume food product commercials. It makes going to the store more miserable than it used to be, and I bet its costing them sales since people seem to be more in a hurry to get out of there.

Re:Some of my customers... (2, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515410)

This is something that really annoys me. If I'm at work, and calling a vendor, supplier, whatever, and end up on hold, I tend to put the phone on speaker, low volume, so I can keep working. Everytime I hear speaking, I have to stop and listen to see if someone has actually answered my call.

A better idea would be to allow the caller to leave a brief message including name and number. My ISP does this, which is wonderful. I don't have to wait on hold, yet I usually get a call back within 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are going to play hold music, as others have suggested, something light and relaxing. Customers are not happy being on hold, so anything with too much excitement is not going to make dealing with them easier. Also, avoid interrupting the music too often with a message like "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line as it is faster than redialing". I've been on hold where they repeat this every 30 seconds, and it annoys the hell out of me. If you have the ability, having a status of the phone queue is a good idea. "There are currently x callers ahead of you. Please stay on the line". If you're going to add time estimates, make sure they are not underestimated. Nothing worse than hearing your call should be answered in 5 minutes, and waiting another 10. In any case, any interrupts like this should be no more than once every minute or two.

Doo bee doo be dooo... la la la la... (1)

halohell (618564) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515048)

I've worked at many call centers. If people HAVE to be on hold, they definitely prefer something nice to listen to. I've heard quite a few comments from customers saying "Whats that god awful sound for the hold "music"?!? I remember one company i worked at, the hold music there was broken and they never bothered fixing it for a couple years. Once we went over to a new system, and we actually had a chance to change the hold music to something a bit better, people were more pleasant when we actually got to their calls.

Anyway.. I'd definitely recommend a mix of current music from various genres as recommended before, however people sometimes do choose to hang up or lower their speaker phone on a song they do not like... In which case you may loose the call. I've found that the "muzak" version of current songs seems to work out well. Or at least instrumental versions of current songs.. It gives people a chance to "be creative" while on hold and they aren't forced to listen to a singer that they don't like.

Also I recommend streaming a local Light FM station through or even a news channel.

But one of the most important things to do is to occasionally break in with the customer's hold status and important system messages that could pertain to why they are calling.

Good luck in your new endeavor
Your sig is for me to poop on.

Local Public Radio (1)

nuxx (10153) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515050)

I personally really enjoy it when I call up some place, and their hold music is the local public radio station. I think it's great to hear that little bit of wherever the end-point of your call is. Granted, this doesn't work for huge companies, but when I call a smallish / mediumish place, it's a nice treat.

Re:Local Public Radio (2, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515126)

No. When there's talk on the radio you can't easily tell the difference between the chatter and the person you're waiting to pickup the phone, frequency -wise. It forces you to listen.

Re:Local Public Radio (1)

schnits0r (633893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515188)

The problem wiht radio is that they could be advertising for your competitors. I mean, imagine calling up domino's pizza and hearing a little chicago advertisement.

Re:Local Public Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515640)

Public radio is a bad idea:

Just because a radio station has a license (from a major record company, a small record company, individual mucisians, etc) to play specific music or content doesn't mean that YOU have the license or right to further redistribute or broadcast that content. "Public" does not at all necessarily mean "public domain" or "open source".

http://www.bmi.com/licensing/business/groupb/faq/m usiconhold_answers.asp [bmi.com]

Q: Our Music-On-Hold System Only Uses Programming From Local Radio Stations. Aren't The Stations Already Licensed?

A: Though radio stations are licensed with BMI to perform the music they broadcast, that agreement does not cover further public performance by those receiving the radio broadcast signal. When radio music is used in music-on-hold, that use is a separate performance under the copyright law.

Why specifically Music? (4, Insightful)

hashinclude (192717) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515058)

The purpose of call-hold music is to indicate that you have not hung up. So why not send soft beeps, once in a while, so that

(a) the exchange does not terminate the call thinking that there is no activity

(b) the listener doesnt get pissed off listening to some (great?) music played over a crap 3KHz bandwidth phone line

Let the customer chose (1)

Yynatago (734843) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515067)

A little out of the way, but how about offering a range of music and let the customer flick through the music by pressing a number on their phone until they find something they like.

Re:Let the customer chose (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515106)

A company I dealt with (and had to hold a lot for) had a system that said:
Press 1 for rock (KLOS radio)
Press 2 for ... ...

Sure beat elevator music!

Appropriate Music (1)

turnin (698827) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515074)

here i am not talking about what music to use but how to choose different music accordingly.

1. Depending upon the time of call ... morning, noon, evening.
2. Depending upon the destination department, like finance, customer support...
3. Depending upon the destination person, this person will decide what his caller want to hear.
4. depending upon the caller(this should be the first point) like partner, customer, consultant...etc.

Ads or No Ads? (1)

CowboyNick (612553) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515078)

I think some companies like to use the hold time for ads. However, this can backfire if you leave people on hold too long, because they will get more upset and start making up their own "versions" of your ads. I think what works best is some easy listening or classical music from a local radio station. This way you get the variety that you would not have to keep up with yourself.

Classical music! (1)

DeepHurtn! (773713) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515097)

I think Classical music is definitely the way to go. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I get some while on hold. It's really the only music that won't totally irritate whole segments of the population (well, except for teenage kids who think they're too cool to, y'know, like stuff that isn't being promoted by a huge corporation).

Specifically, I'd go with with mostly Romantic and Classical stuff (Schubert, Shumann, Mozart, Haydn...), although some twentieth century composers would work well too, I think (Rachmaninoff, Copland's folksy stuff).

Jazz standards are probably pretty good too, stuff like Sinatra. The main thing, I think, is to stay away from contemporary pop stuff. You're always going to irritate lots of people that way, because everyone hates at least half of the stuff on the radio.

I'd suggest downtempo electronica / acid jazz (4, Interesting)

Laxitive (10360) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515104)

For a commercial music, you want to try to offend as few people as possible, while still playing interesting music that people won't mind listening to. Generally you want it to be instrumental, apolitical, and good.

You don't want to be playing The Clash or blaring Radiohead out to the world.

Downtempo electronica and acid jazz fit that bill perfectly. They have a certain amount of respectability because they generally sample jazz and mix it with electronic beats and modulations to produce very "chill out" music. It's not hard on the ears, it's not loud. It's quiet and relaxing, and still good. The nice thing is, there's a lot of it that is purely instrumental. No annoying vocals to deal with, so you have to neither risk alienating people with controversial vocals, nor dumb down vocals to the point where they are stupefyingly trite and banal.

For concrete suggestions, try the following:
Suzuki by Tosca
Bricolage by Amon Tobin

Another choice you have is to play straight up good Jazz. Put on some Coltrane or Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock or something. There's no fucking way anybody can be offended by that music. It's all instrumental, and it's all rock solid.

Jazz and jazz-based electronica seem to be a perfect fit for what you're looking for in terms of: apolitical, instrumental, and good.


Play some Rammstein (2, Funny)

dedazo (737510) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515112)

I kid you not, by the time your reps pick up the phone your callers will be spurting blood from their nipples as they spasm incontrollably and chant demonic verses along the lines of "Du Hast Mich" in hair-raising, spine splitting gothic German.

Then again if this is not a tech support line, please disregard. Might want to think about doing the Engelbert Humperdinck thang.

Re:Play some Rammstein (1)

wibs (696528) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515258)

I don't know, I don't think using a staple of Holleywood soundtracks like Rammstein will really get people to spurt blood. A bit of KMFDM might make them leave, but a healthy dose of Mindless Self Indulgence would probably get some lawsuits. There's no such thing as bad press, right?

Re:Play some Rammstein (1)

DiscoOnTheSide (544139) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515404)

I agree on the MSI thing. Saw them live when they came to Jersey. Had milk poured on me then watched the singer pee into a cup and pour it on a group in the crowd (thankfully not me) as his finale...

Classical (1)

(mandos) (90321) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515116)

I strongly recomend some light classical music. Many people enjoy it and at worst, some who don't atleast won't be pissed off by it like the music you named. The lack of people singing in it is also helpful when on hold, as I'm often talking to other people in the room with me, or trying to pay attention to something else. Makes it easier, so when someone Does come on the phone you can readily identify them.

Mike Scanlon

Let them be their own DJ (1)

JVert (578547) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515127)

If you can change the way hold works and give them a separate line plug them into HAL. It will give them the option of voice command over their music. All you need is a PC with a good voice modem and HAL (one pc per line).
http://www.automatedliving.com/products_dm c.shtml

Caller-changeable hold music (1)

Speequinox (662721) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515129)

I propose a system wherein the caller can change the channel of the hold music, which would make people happier about being on hold and would result in fewer lost calls.

Instead of being forced to listed to a monolithic, one-way conduit of bad music the next time you're on hold, wouldn't it be great if you could change the station? "Press 1 for Jazz, press 2 for Top 40, etc." People would stay on hold longer, which means the businesses who used this would get more customers. I might even call it just to listen to the music! It could be Internet radio, XM, or anything else. Discussion here [whynot.net].

Re:Caller-changeable hold music (1)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515276)

Hmmm... something like the choice on an airplane eh?

How about including one from "the cockpit" where the sounds are from a slave galley - cracking whips and shouting slave-drivers to the beat of a timing drum, punctuated by shouts of "get on with it, there're people waiting on hold damnit!!!"

If nothing else, make 'em laugh.

Anything Instrumental (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515138)

As long as there's absolutely no speech in what you pipe down the line, it can be any genre. I don't want to listen to your music, but I do want to listen for when your staff member answers my call.

If you're specifically asking about genres, I recommend ambient electronica and/or classical, in that order.

Show them you really care (1)

howman (170527) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515153)

Play some speed metal or punk. Nothing says "We are here to help you" like Crass or Slipknot.
You may find your work load lighten a bit with all the hang ups.

Re:Show them you really care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515462)

When videophones come out, then Slipknot would be totally appropriate.

Competitor's Adverts ... (2, Interesting)

karearea (234997) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515154)

Use your competitors adverts. It means that there is an incentive to get people off those dumb arse holding queues.

Apple (2, Interesting)

TALlama (462873) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515168)

For a long time, Apple used to play surf rock. Beach Boys, Ventures, etc. Definitely different; made waiting much nicer.

if you want to be evil... (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515176)

I suggest the Bunny Hop, and other such music. Children's songs like "I'm a Little Teapot," or "Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes (Knees & Toes)." Oh yeah, great stuff. "Pop Goes the Weasel," "The Hokey Pokey." Classics all, and guaranteed to drive most sane adults totally bonkers. Then when they get annoyed and hang up, you don't have to talk to them!

Two thoughts on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515255)

1) If you're going to do that, some taped Sesame St.
classics would be good (featuring the letter T. for tech support?)

2) If you're at all concerned about the Parents idea or number 1 being seen as inappropriate, They Might Be Giants would be a good choice for those that still like the idea.

Re:Two thoughts on this (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515306)

Or you could fake a Sesame Street bit - the Count. "One minute on hold...Two minutes on hold...Three minutes on hold...HAHAHAHAHA!" Or a fake Oscar the Grouch complaining about how long the hold time is, etc. Or the evil version, of course, is having Elmo saying anything.

re: TMBG, yes indeed! "Peaches," "Kitty," and "Istanbul, Not Constantinopal," "Birdhouse In Your Soul."

Probably hafta use the censored version of "Kitty," though. 'Tis a shame.

I liked another poster's idea about parking it on a good indie radio station. I recommend KEXP (kexp.org) - stream available online. John in the morning is a pretty awesome show.

ETA (2, Interesting)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515194)

Start with an ETA every minute or so. There's nothing worse than "your call is important to us, we'll be with you shortly" every thirty seconds for tens of minutes.

After that, the minimalist in me says just play enough white noise to make it clear that the line isn't dead.

Re:ETA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515256)

If I heard white noise coming from the phone, I'd think the line *is* dead..

Why put on hold at all? (5, Interesting)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515214)

In this day and age, I'm really genuinely surprised at how common being on hold is. Let the customer input their phone number, leave a message, or whatever, and get the next available person to just call them. The customer doesn't have to hold a phone to their head for an hour. They don't have to tie up their phone line. They can listen to whatever music they want, watch TV, make food, or pretty much do whatever it was they were doing before they had to call you.

Re:Why put on hold at all? (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515417)

For large companies, this wouldn't be great (I get a feeling of "they haven't forgotten me" when I'm on hold, even though I hate waiting like that), they'd worry about missing the call/being on the phone, etc. For a startup like this guy, it'd be great.

Re:Why put on hold at all? (1)

evilWurst (96042) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515420)

Money. They're already paying so you can call them toll-free. If they have to call you back, that costs them still more money.

Re:Why put on hold at all? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515473)

Yes, but what are the hourly rates for someone parked on hold on an 800 number, compared to calling them back in a short amount of time?

Re:Why put on hold at all? (4, Interesting)

mcowger (456754) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515454)

An interesting variant of that for people who dont do well punching a phone number into a computer is the following (which I know that at least one company, SpectraLogic, does).

You call the support line, and you wait on hold a max of about 1 minute. A real human answers the phone, and he/she takes your name, number, brief problem description (this is a tech support line) down and you hang up. The issue is assigned to arep, who calls you back when they are ready. Its like the OP's system, but you get to talk to a real person, and hear an ETA, or give them 2 contacts numbers, etc, because a human answers. Works really well for me.

Re:Why put on hold at all? (2, Funny)

grasscutter (324838) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515556)

actually i did this with ticketmaster the last time i was on hold for never getting my concert tickets in the mail.

just remember not to take a shower when you're waiting for them to call...

Re:Why put on hold at all? (1)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515661)

I have to say that'd be rather nice.
It's a pain to be on-hold, unable to listen to music, put the TV up loud, or even go to the toilet.

Certainly for 0800 (UK freephone - customer doesn't pay) numbers, where I can only assume that it's the company who has to pay for 100+ people stuck on the other end. They'd be bound to save money, and possibly piss the customers off less.


Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515218)

Plug a radio into it! No licensing fees...

If you hate them.. (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515226)

If you hate your customers, play either the Jeopardy theme or Hanson's MMMBop. Actually, some time ago, there was a site that had corporate anthems for download -- perhaps some of those would be appropriate...

Give them a choice! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515235)

I once called a company that allowed the caller to choose from 8 selections of hold music. They had outstanding musical taste. The company still had terrible service though!

Having looked into this once for my company, you should know that you probably need an ASCAP licence to be legal. Most people don't bother, though.

My company does business in many languages, and our phone system only supports one source of hold music, so they have to choose instrumental-only music so that callers don't get lyrics in a language they don't know...

My experiance with hold music: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515259)

I had to call dell to get a replacement part for a friends computer. The holding music? Saftey Dance.

things that make me cringe (1)

snot whistle (585599) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515278)

personally, i can't stand being subjected to:

kenny g style 'lite' jazz
cheezy 'lite' or 'soft' rock
christmas songs
or the worst, flaccid flatulent fatass 'classic' rock. if i NEVER hear 'stairway to hotel freebird' again it will be too soon. how many times in a life can one listen the same crap over and over and over and over and over and over.

i like the idea of a local station. preferably college radio.

or real classical.

or a dozen different covers of the carpenters 'close to you'

on the phone again... (1)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515297)

take "on the road again" and s/road/phone/ and loop it over and over. people will never get tired of that one.

Depends on what you want to achieve... (2, Insightful)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515333)

Bore them so they hang up - Bolero, on a loop

Get them humming, at least for a time - Abba

Entertain them for a half hour (or more) on hold - radio comedy shows from the 40's and 50's

Remind them of a time before computers - 101 strings playing "hits" of the 60's and 70's

Get them to forget they're on hold if they're over age 40 - up-tempo orchestral classics - Brahms, Beethoven, Thaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussagorsky, etc.

But whatever you play, run it through an audio compressor so the dynamic range is minimal - and then check the actual volume from another phone so you neither blast them out nor make them strain to hear.

Einstein (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515339)

"Einstein on the Beach"

The caller will either be intrigued or annoyed beyond all repair.

Seriously, don't keep saying "your call is important to us", don't play some top 40 crap. Do give the caller an estimate of the time they'll have to wait to talk to someone (better to overestimate a bit than underestimate), do let them know if there is a website they can use.

Pick hard-to-hate, not some-people-love-it music (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515354)

IMO, you want to go with something instrumental, preferably something

You have a couple of options here. You could go with something slow and
soothing, on the theory that it will keep people calm; in that case, something
from the Romantic era is probably what you want, e.g. Chopin. This has the
disadvantage that it will put people to sleep, however. The other choice is
to go with something with a bit more pizazz (but not so much pizazz as to be
annoying). The Baroque era is rich in music that is peppy enough to be
interesting but nevertheless sedate enough to avoid making anyone crazy. If
I were picking, I'd tell you to get Munchinger's performance of the _Art of
Fugue_, which is really excellent; I've received positive comments about it
from people who generally don't listen to old music in general or Baroque in
particular but liked this album. Contrapunctus II is particularly fetching.
Another reasonable option would be something classical. Very few people have
a strong dislike for Mozart, for example; people may feel that he's overrated
(e.g., I do), but they won't be hanging themselves with the phone cord after
the tenth measure.

What you absolutely want to avoid is anything with lyrics. Lyrics get more
attention, get noticed, and get a reaction. That's bad. Lyrics make fans,
but they also make foes. Genres with lyrics sell a lot of albums, because
a lot of people like them -- but a lot of people hate (any given genre of)
them too. You pick any genre with lyrics -- rap, rock-and-roll, metal,
country, ... -- and there are people who passionately hate it. That's not
what you want for hold music; you want something everyone can at least put
up with; it's not necessary for anyone to be _excited_ about the music; you
just want them to be able to stand it okay.

There's another strategy you could follow: Make it play the tail end of
something obnoxious for the first ten seconds and then switch to something
else. People will be so relieved they won't mind if the thing it switches
to is not their first choice. But this only works if the obnoxious music
is significantly obnoxious. Perhaps a polka rendition of MacArthur Park,
or an amateur nobody singing a Neil Diamond song, or something like that.
Of course, that breaks down once people have been on hold enough times to
know the trick. What I would really recommend is going with the Bach.
But don't get a recording played on organ; Bach fans love that, but a lot
of people dislike organ music. Go with an orchestral recording, like the
the abovementioned Munchinger one. That's harder to hate.

Finally, realize that no matter *what* you pick, you *cannot* please
absolutely everyone. There will always be some loon who thinks you should
play Country music, and he'll be mildly irritated that you don't; you have
to reconcile yourself to the fact that it's a choice between irritating that
guy mildly, by not playing his first choice, versus playing the Country and
driving other people out of their skulls with loathing. (If it's not
Country, it'll be metal or rap or some other love-it-or-hate-it genre;
avoid these, and go for something hard-to-hate instead of something that
some people really love.)

Oh, and... no frequent voiceovers. (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515412)

One last thing. Resist the urge to interrupt the music frequently with
voiceovers explaining how important the call (allegedly) is to you. One
such voiceover early in the hold (possibly even before the music starts)
is probably a good idea; beyond that, spread them out at least twice as far
as you think they ought to go, and either put them between music tracks or
leave the music playing in the background during the voiceover. Above all,
do *not* stop the music every fifteen seconds, giving false hope that a
live person is about to pick up, only to play a voice recording. That's
more annoying than almost any music you could pick. Once you start the
music, just let it play. (Exception: if you have the capability to notify
the user when they move up in the queue due to completion of a previous call
(a la, "Thanks for holding; you are now second in line to speak to a tech
support representative. Calls are answered in the order they are received"),
that would be better received, due to being an indicator of real progress.
Still, avoid abruptly stopping the music for this announcement, since that
introduces false hope that the call is being picked up by a live human.
Instead, run the voice overtop without stopping the music if possible.)

Heres a thought... (1)

errgh (744846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515366)

How about not worrying about hold music but instead working actually talking to users/customers. Improving your efficiency in solving problems/answering questions. I think thats a way better aproach to your problem than muzak.

Its a sales oportunity... (1)

sr180 (700526) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515373)

Use it as a sales opportunity. I know that this will almost be counted as spam, but your callers are sitting on hold, you have the opportunity to promote your services. Have some background music and a comfortable voice explaining some of the services you provide that might be useful to the callers on hold.

Playing the radio can be bad, while waiting on hold, what if they hear an ad for a competitor?

They will judge your company by what music they hear. Theres a reflex ad going on at the moment where a boardroom full of execs on speaker phone gets put on hold to the heaviest music you ever heard crackling through a phone line. Remember, phone lines arent designed for music, and it wont always come out the other end the best

Also, you must ask, do you have a LICENSE to broadcast that music?? In Australia, the aussie version of the RIAA (ARIA) has on-hold licenses you must purchase for the playing of licensed music. I assume the US would probably be the same.

Maybe get a professional company to do it for you. Someone with the recording talent and licensed music to avoid the licensing costs and problems. These guys know what they are doing: http://www.infotec.com.au/infoonhold/ [infotec.com.au]

Re:Its a sales oportunity... (1)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515642)

The licensing issue can be a real pain at times.
I'm not talking from a money-saving business point of view. I'm talking from the PoV of the poor sod suck the other side of the hold-music when it's some royalty-free (but Godawful) music.

I don't care about copyright and licensing. If I'm stuck on the other end of the phone (and often the few times I do phone places it's for tech-support during a mass-outage - hence long waiting periods) then if I'm forced to hear something pumped into my ear, I'd rather it was something halfway decent.

I dunno. I just find it wrong that the music companies try to profit from when an ISP's main servers go tits-up.


I'd suggest (1)

Muggins the Mad (27719) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515386)

How about just answering the phone?

Hold music is great for when there's a sudden surprise jump in the number of calls, but it seems to be common practice just to make the customer give up and leave from boredom. Very few calls seem to be answered quickly these days.

I guess it cuts down on the number of complaints (that get through).

But I'm a paying (or potential) customer. Telling me my time isn't important to you is a great way to lose my custom.

- MugginsM

Animal Crossing's K.K. (1)

demo9orgon (156675) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515426)

Hey! Isn't this "slashdot"?
Doesn't _anyone_ here play videogames?
Just record all the K.K. Songs from Animal Crossing, and shuffle their order.
Not only would the customers be completely tripped out, they couldn't be offended by the music or the lyrics, and they'd certainly know when it ended.

morse code (2, Interesting)

mamba-mamba (445365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515430)

You should play morse code training materials.

<morse code> di-dah
<Eisenhower era voice> "A"

di-dah "A"
di-dah "A"

dah-di-di-di "B"
dah-di-di-di "B"
dah-di-di-di "B"



Re: Customer-friendly music... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515434)

Nine Inch Nails...

Oh, wait... that would be BOFH customer service music.

How about Phillip Glass' "4 Minutes"?

Dogs Barking (3, Funny)

Lenolium (110977) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515438)

There were some particularly weird "things" on XMission (a local and awesome ISP) [xmission.com]'s hold music
When I worked there, there were two songs that were the techs favorites. One of them was something like six minutes of dogs barking. The users really hated it, it really rubbed all of them the wrong way. Rubbed them the wrong way so much that you could always tell when it had just finished playing and someone had to sit through all of it. Even though there were thousands of songs in the playlist (mostly trance), this one got a lot of attention and was removed.
The song that people liked to hear the most was "C is for cookie" by the cookie monster. Wouldn't matter if they had just been sitting on hold for three days and the DSL line had surged out of control and killed both of their parents, anyone after listening to that was in a pretty happy mood by the time they got to you. I think that one is still on there.
My personal favorite Hold Music was what I put on when I worked at a little company in San Jose. 100% Christmas music, the Secretary said it shouldn't be done, it was October and all. But I said "But if we don't do it now, we won't catch them by suprise." It's really quite amazing how few people know how to change the hold music, even though it was powered by a normal cd player with a little wire running to the PBX

ambient music. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515441)

aphex twin's "selected ambient works vol II." (or mr bungle's "desert search for techno allah" [note: not an ambient song])

Truth in Advertising (1)

rjh (40933) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515459)

The following's just a small sampling of some of the musical horror you can inflict on those hapless souls you've got strung on hold. None of these are gratuitously bad tunes; many of them are, IMO, quite excellent. But they're all ... ahh. Shall we just say that they're very appropriate for the work experience? They all talk to the poor schmuck on the other end of the line and tell him/her how pathetic their situation is and how much you don't want to hear from them. :)

Leonard Cohen, Waiting for the Miracle
Nothing left to do when you know that you've been taken
Nothing left to do when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do but you've got to go on waiting
Waiting for the miracle to come
Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight is fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Bob Seger, Hands in the Air
I've seen bad news messengers avoiding kings...

The Cardigans, Erase and Rewind
Erase and rewind
I've been wasting my time
Erase and rewind...
Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms
Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
Jim's Big Ego, I'm Addicted to Stress
I'm addicted to stress, it's the way that I get things done
If I'm not under pressure then I sleep too long
And hang around like a bum
And I think I'm going nowhere and that makes me nervous
Kathy Mar, Merlin
It's late at night and the stars are deep
It's okay--I don't need sleep
I've been sleeping for quite some time.
Kim Wilde, You Keep Me Hanging On
Come on. Do I really need to quote this one to you?
Leonard Cohen, Closing Time
Ah, we're drinking and we're dancing
But there's nothing really happening
The place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night
Meat Loaf, Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back!
And all the morons! All the stooges with their coin!
They're the ones who make the rules
It's not a game--it's just a rout.
Pandora's Box, Original Sin
I've been looking for the Ultimate Crime
Infinite victims, infinitesimal time!

(This song also has the benefit of a percussion line so ass-kicking you'll make your customers' eardrums meet in the middle of their heads. Heh. Bonus.)
Peter Gabriel, Come Talk to Me
Come on. Come talk to me.
Rob Dougan, Left Me for Dead
You kept on taking your time
Until it was certain I couldn't survive...
Rob Dougan, Furious Angels
And if you go, furious angels will bring you back to me

modarchive (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515467)

http://www.modarchive.com/ [modarchive.com]

A lot of pretty much IP-free music, some of which is very good. You'll have to go through it to pick a few workable selections. 30 minutes should be plenty; if people are on hold for that long, you guys aren't doing your job!

Chill Out by The JAMMS (1)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515505)

It's a pivotal moment in ambient dance music - sure to calm anyone's frayed nerves. At least if the sound quality isn't so bad.....
Here's waiting for CD quality VOIP codecs

Well thats easy (1)

oddbudman (599695) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515521)

Here are my choices for soothing hold music. I have tried to leave my selection fairly broad so it is suitable for the general pubic (left off some lesser known tunes) Just a tip too, it is always a good idea to leave the gain on the hold music sequencer well and truly in the clipping region as this will help improve Customer Hold Satisfaction (CHS).

Anyway, here is my list. Please feel free to add as necessary :)

Black Sabbath
Morbid Angel
Decay Of Salvation
Solstice of Suffering

With a playlist like this you are sure to get a high CHS ratings.

Rant in list form: Phone etiquette for companies (5, Insightful)

Grabble (91256) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515564)

You asked about what on-hold music to use. I'm going to pretend you said, "Give me input on phone-related stuff for my company."

1) NEVER blame "unusual call volume" for hold times. God, that makes me sick. It's a sneaky way of saying "It's not our fault you're on hold." Yeah, it is.

2) When the caller has finished their business, NEVER ask "Is there anything else I can help you with blah blah blah?". "No." "Okay then, thank you for calling Ultrablather Systems Software Systems Incorporated." STFU and say goodbye like any normal polite person and let me get off the goddamn phone.

3) NEVER have a phone system that constantly reminds me every 30 seconds that your sorry I'm holding and blah blah blah. If you're not gonna have enough people to eliminate the wait, at least let me wait in peace.

4) If your phone system requires me to punch numbers in, you better be sure your system rewards my effort. Being asked for the info I just punched in makes me want punch in your face.

5) Make sure the hold music is QUIET.

6) Play Dixieland music, simply because nobody does. Added bonus: It uses banjos.

New problem... old solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9515612)

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.... hands down. Intelligent, unobtrusive. Kinda classy, really.

Fresh Instrumental Stuff (1)

CoolGuySteve (264277) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515632)

If copyrights aren't an issue, go for some modern lesser-known instrumental music. A lot of it is good while still being non-invasive. Because it will be something that most people probably haven't heard before, it could help reduce boredom by sparking intrest. Classical is alright but it's pretty generic.

Whatever you decide, don't play the local fucking pop station. No product is worth having to sit through 30 minutes of ChristinaBritney/NickleCreed.

Off the top of my head, some quiet instrumental music I listen to while coding:
Godspeed You Black Emporer!, Tortoise, Boards of Canada, mouse on mars

Of course, you could always just do what everyone is thinking and play Uncle Fucka from South Park on an endless loop.

Chill (2)

riclewis (617546) | more than 9 years ago | (#9515658)

The best music I've found for chillin' is club/lounge music. Stuff like "Simple Things" by Zero 7, or "Sao Paolo Confessions" by Suba, or even the compo "Om Lounge Vol. 8".

It's all catchy music that is mellow, interesting enough to keep you listening, without putting you to sleep. They're all on iTunes if you wanna give 'em a listen.

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