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We all know how it feels to make a phone call and having to be put on hold while listening to some annoying music. In this article, we’ll briefly focus on the music you hear while on hold which is commonly referred to as on-hold music. Most of the tracks selected for on hold music are often generic and not very pleasant to listen to. Back in the day, not much attention was paid to the quality of on-hold music. Most people simply figured that whoever listens to it doesn’t need to like it, just to understand that it’s meant to indicate one thing: don’t hang up.

Silence usually indicates that a phone call is disconnected or that the line is dead. This is what callers may think if they hear silence even during ongoing calls. Phone companies eventually recognised the need to play something called a ‘comfort tone’ over phone lines. This music often consists of generic monotone music to let you know that the connection is still there.

On-hold music emerged in the early 1960s, a few years after the first transatlantic phone cable was laid between Newfoundland and Scotland. Since a greater volume of calls were being placed, especially to big businesses, the switchboard operators often had to tell callers to “please hold” before their call was directed to the right person. Legend has it that Alfred Levy, a factory owner, discovered the potential of hold music accidentally when an exposed wire in his telephone system was picking up a radio broadcast from a radio next door. Pretty convenient, huh? Levy said, after he submitted a patent in 1966 for a Telephone Hold Program System which described in-depth, the psychological frustrations of being on hold. “Courteous telephone practice requires that a caller on-hold be assured at reasonable intervals that the party to whom he wishes to speak is still busy. However, the pressure of busy switchboard duties may prevent the operator from informing the incoming caller so that he may feel at ease,” Levy wrote. “In any event, listening to a completely unresponsive instrument is tedious and calls often are abandoned altogether or remade which leads to annoyance and a waste of time and money.” So, Levy recommended the use of playback music, much like the kind that was increasingly broadcast to restaurants and bars and department stores by Muzak (a brand of background music played in retail stores and other public establishments in the mid 20th century)

Traditional on-hold music can function as a kind of anesthetic, both against what might await you on the other end of the line and against the seemingly endless, infuriating condition of waiting. This creates a kind of calming effect. It’s like a customer service lullaby for your wait. Green said that his favorite experience in his years working on hold music was helping with a collection agency that was sending past-due medical bills, often quite high, to people and asking them to call a specific number. Originally, the hold sounds were a simple double-beep that telegraphed to callers that the line was live. Green says he advised the company to add some very low beats-per-minute piano music and add messaging that said to the caller, ‘You may or may not owe this or the full amount on the bills sent to you, please have your information ready, so we may help you work through this.”

Today the easiest way to find on hold music for a business is to look for it online and at HookSounds we got you covered. We create tracks that clients and other listeners will definitely enjoy, no matter what the circumstances are. Go ahead and give the tracks a listen then it’s up to you to decide whether to join the HookSounds community. We can assure you that you won’t regret the experience. 

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