Do You Hate Our Hold Music?

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on hold music

Hold Music is a modern nuisance, often not considered until you’re on the receiving end. There are a multitude of opportunities for it to crop up and not least of all on conference calls but the people at 247meeting got to thinking recently; is hold music a help or a hindrance while our customers are waiting for their call to begin?

This is a Hold-Up!

The original purpose of Hold Music, as defined in the 1962 US patent, was “to pacify the originator of the call if the delay becomes unduly long”. Since then, it is universally accepted that ‘silent hold’ is death to any call and the studies show that music can change our perception of passing time, shortening it; even in spite of the ire most Hold Music seems to provoke. A recently published infographic on Conference Call habits suggests that 21% of participants hate their conference call provider’s hold music and 50% believed that hold music affects their attitude to the conference call.

If you’re interested to see which common Hold Music tunes provoke the most ire (and therefore which to avoid) have a look at the infographic ZenDesk prepared on the subject.

Our last blog post summed up people’s general (misplaced, in our humble opinion) attitude to conference calls and though we can’t blame Hold Music for all these misgivings one can’t avoid the truth in the proverb: ‘a good start is half the battle’.

So in what ways have we been getting Hold Music wrong?

Hold Music now fits a certain stereotype. I don’t even need to describe it to you: your brain is currently conjuring up screaming strings, modulated bassoons and all the accompanying delights of modern day Hold Music, meant to relax you and keep you on hold.

However, when on hold for a conference call – we’re not frustrated customers – we’re willing(?) participants of a business meeting. Perhaps we don’t want to relax, maybe we want to be inspired or invigorated instead; Hold Music appears to be a neglected but powerful psychological tool.

What to consider when changing your Hold Music?

  • Quality: Put in a test call after you’ve uploaded your music, make sure it is reproduced well over a phone line (Bass tones, in general, don’t play well over the phone.). Good quality Hold Music makes a good first impression and gives participants confidence in the quality of the line.
  • Tempo: Researchers have discovered that our breathing patterns and heartbeat sync up to the music we listen to. While we’ve established relaxing music doesn’t have to be your immediate go to, choose wisely!
  • Genre: An interesting study showed that people are quite good at predicting others’ personalities based on their taste in music. Your participants will no doubt be inclined to form similar impressions of your business, based on your hold music.
  • What you want from your call: If 50% of participants believe that Hold Music affects their attitude to the conference call, it might be worth listening to them – and selecting your Hold Music appropriately.


Playing hold music to your participants is considered a public performance and you will need the appropriate permissions/licence to do so without breaking the law. Public Performance licenses from Record Labels can be prohibitively expensive and complicated. However, it is possible to acquire hold music, royalty free under what is know as a “creative commons” licence. You should be able to use music that is shared under the following licences.

  • Public Domain: anything where the creator has waived their rights or anything created prior to 1923.
  • Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)
  • Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
  • Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs (CC BY-NC)

However, always refer to the artist for guidance and permissions when in doubt. Make sure you understand the terms of the licence before using the music you’ve chosen. If you’re wondering where to find music shared under Creative Commons, there’s a comprehensive list here.

We hope we’ve given you some groove for thought and that we’ve inspired you to improve your overall conference call experience. Find out how to change your Hold Music using your online Control Panel here.