How to find the right telephone hold music

If you need to re-route business calls to another department, you need to let customers know that their call is still live while they’re placed on hold. If you leave them in silence, they may think they’ve been cut off and simply hang up.

That’s where hold music comes in. But how can you find the perfect music for your business, and do you need a licence? Let’s take a look.

What is hold music?

Hold music is simply a piece of music that is played to replace the, sometimes long, silence that occurs when a phone call is placed on hold.

The most commonly used hold music is thought to be a track called ‘Opus Number One’ – the reason it’s so popular? It’s the default hold music on 65 million Cisco phone sets around the world!

How to find the right hold music

Telephone hold music is a much-maligned medium – if it’s not a terrible rendition of something classical being played on a 1980’s Bontempi keyboard, it’s some awful, generic piece of aural tat that has a very loose connection to the term ‘music’.

If it’s a tune your familiar with, it can come across as warbly, scratchy and not at all like you remembered it.

Even if it’s a hit tune you like and a recording of the real artist performing it, it can still get pretty grating when it’s on its third time around after you’ve been placed on hold for ten minutes.

It’s all a matter of personal taste really.

When choosing hold music, it’s a good idea to use something that fits the image of your business and will resonate with your customers – death metal might not be the best fit for a beauty salon, for instance, so some relaxing music you play in store might be more suitable.

And consider how long customers will be on hold. If wait times are usually more than a couple of minutes, pick a variety of tunes to customers aren’t forced to listen to the same one, over and over.

Once you’ve chosen some suitable tunes, the next thing to consider is, if you’re playing hold music over your telephone system, do you need a licence for it?

And the short answer is almost always ‘yes’.

Do you need a licence for hold music?

Broadly speaking, there are two  types of licence you will need if you want to play music on hold – a Public Performance Licence (PPL) and a Performing Rights Society Licence (PRS).

And while you may be tempted to go ahead and play the hold music without getting a licence, be warned that both PPL and PRS are pretty keen on tracking down business that try to cheat the system and aren’t afraid to take businesses who do so to court.

A PPL licence covers the royalties paid to performers, such as the artist or orchestra that made the recording, while a PRS licence sorts the royalties for the composers of the music and lyrics, the songwriters, basically.

There are some exceptions though…

Classical music

If you’ve ever wondered why companies seem to favour a bit of classical to keep people on hold entertained, it could be because some compositions are out of copyright.

Copyright on written music expires 70 years after the composer has died, which means if the composer of  a piece of music died before 1944, you won’t require a PRS licence.

However, if the sound recording was made in the last 50 years you’ll still most likely require a PPL licence to play it.

Royalty-free music

Royalty-free music adds another layer of complexity to the whole set-up as although you won’t need a PPL licence to pay the performers – money is normally made by selling the music at a higher price than other music – there’s a good chance you’ll still need a PRS licence to pay the composers.

What music is right for you?

When choosing hold music, it’s important not just to go for the cheapest option as the type of music you choose can say a lot about you and your company image – so, first and foremost, pick something that reflects you and your business.

Image by Mimzy on Pixabay