End Hold Music Forever!


Recently, as one of our partners was calling into the office, he had to endure a brief hold on our VoIP phone system that was accompanied by tinny-sounding and objectively bad instrumental music. It was a painful and effective reminder of one of the “little things” that affects customer experience, and it got us thinking, why do we even have hold music at all?

A brief dive into the history of hold music reinforced our original thought: that hold music is an antiquated relic of a bygone era, and as such should be dispatched.

Taking a romantic view of early telephone service, one might be inclined to look at hold music as an evolution of early telephone broadcasts of public symphony and opera performances. The extended gap between these long-distance music transmissions and the widespread adoption of hold music across phone systems, however, seems to make that connection a bridge too far.

In fact, the “invention” of hold music has been attributed to a mis-wiring incident in a factory in the 1960’s. A loose phone system wire was grounded to the building, turning the entire thing into an AM antenna and sending broadcast music through to callers. Alfred Levy, the factory owner, patented this mistake some years later. Of course this is the foundation upon which millions of smooth-jazz bricks have been laid over the years. At that time, however, there were two factors in telephone communications that are no longer relevant today:

  • Switchboard operated calls meant long wait times at the beginning of every call

  • Analog phones had no way of alerting callers that silence on the line was due to a dropped call and not simply remaining on hold

Without these factors, why do we still need hold music? We don’t! Nor do we need to be notified by a robot every 30 seconds that “someone will be with you as soon as possible.” Today, having hold music is akin to forcing your clients to listen to one song on your Spotify playlist over and over again every time they want to speak to you. Why be an authoritarian DJ? Today we are starting a movement to put an end to this barbaric tradition. We have replaced the hold music on our phone system with recorded silence. It is a testament to how ingrained in the system this music is, and how great a battle we face, that we have to replace bad hold music with manufactured silence rather than simply turn it off. #ENDHOLDMUSIC