What is Your Hold Music?

What’s the worst hold music you have ever listened to?
I found some that people really dislike.

Some people theorize that companies use bad music to encourage customers to hang up before they have to talk to them.  I have a different theory.  I think companies use music that they think either fits the theme of “please hold” (Hold On, Jeopardy theme, Hold Me Now) or is “safe”.

The Law & Penalties

What most people don’t realize is that the music that is being played has to be licensed meaning you have to pay for the rights to play it.  This is the main reason why a lot of hold music is, well, Muzak.

Under U.S.C. TITLE 17, the law allows copyright owners to receive as damages for infringement between $500 and $100,000 for each work infringed. Moreover, a corporate officer who has the right or ability to supervise the company’s music use and who has a direct financial interest in the corporation can be held personally liable for the infringement.

If you want to customize your on hold music, then you need to get with ASCAP or BMI and pay for the rights to play it on your virtual system. It isn’t hard to do, but it will take a meticulous mind and good record keeping to avoid copyright infringement. (Trust me.  I used to get the rights every year before football season for the University of Texas Longhorn Band.) It can also add up, so don’t try to get hundreds of songs or you will have a hefty bill.

Occasionally, there will be a song that isn’t owned by ASCAP or BMI.  In that case, you have two choices: a) go to a music library at your nearest university, find out who owns the rights, write a letter, pray that they are still in business, and pay the people, or b) decide not to use the song.


Any song you can think of is probably going to offend SOMEONE. My old boss was once asked to remove a song by Michael Jackson because of the King of Pop’s questionable character. Try to pick songs that were number one hits back in the day. LISTEN to the song or READ the lyrics if you don’t know what it’s about.  This could save you from a faux pas. And relax. Odds are, nobody will complain but if they do, then you can just remove the music.


While it may seem cute to put a bunch of music together that contains the word HOLD, please try to stay away from that. It gets really old, really fast. However, you can theme the types of music based on what department is on hold. For instance, for pre-sales, you might decide to play peppy music whereas for a support call, you should think about music that is calm and tranquil.


I found equal amounts of people who hated classical music and enjoyed classical. This music tends to have much more dynamic range than the telephone can handle. Therefore, most of it will be so inaudible that you will just hear silence, except for when it’s blasting, then it will be over saturated.

Which Customer Do You Want?

When it comes down to it, getting a customer to react like this guy to your hold music is a much better option than putting one to sleep or losing their call.

What is the worst hold music you have ever heard? Leave us a comment and let us know!