Death of Music: Hold that Thought

In an age where technological breakthroughs are more common than rare, on-hold music still sounds crappy. Most people cringe when they think about being stuck on-hold listening to distorted sub-standard music when we’d all be happier grooving to our own playlists. Add to that an industry set up to sell while we’re held hostage on-hold waiting to resolve problems, and you have a modern day Titanic. A recent article from On-Hold Marketing Networks claimed that we “spend approximately 1.2 YEARS waiting on-hold in our lifetime”. Forget just exercising and eating meatless diets as the only options to long healthy lives! Are we to spend our valuable time listening to music we wouldn’t bother downloading for free?

Technical limitations plague current hold music. According to Easy On Hold, “Music, to a cell phone, is more like background noise. The cell phone tries to shut down the music in order to make way for the voice. The on hold music begins to sound like it’s being twisted, squeezed and electronically abused”. Most hold music is not professional recordings from top artists. This may be due to the high cost of licensing. One solution is giving users the choice to play music they own on their smartphones. In addition, the digital fidelity on smartphones is good and will continue to get better with each new version. No matter what music is cleverly chosen by a company to appeal to the masses, it must still use current sub-standard phone technologies. The only solution, then, is giving users the power of music from their smartphones.

For example, Phone Music was an app on Google Play with over 50k downloads. The problem was that Phone Music created two volume sliders to blend the on-hold music with songs from my smartphone. The result I experienced was a sonic melee of ear-numbing noise worse than a vicious catfight. I had to keep the hold signal loud enough to hear the call being picked up at just the right time, which meant the music from my smartphone, with digital fidelity, was muted, lost in the abyss of poor sound waves. Most of the comments on Google Play ranged from complaints about the problem I just mentioned or technical issues with an app having infrequent updates. The number of downloads implies there may, at the very least, be a real market for a solution to on-hold woes. I’ve yet to find someone that would admit to enjoying current hold music, have you?

Another alternative is MusicRogue. The company is going to allow users to make a call through their app, which will block the hold signal and play music from a playlist on a smartphones media player or stream music from a third-party music provider like Spotify. This roguish approach gives users control over their hold music and good fidelity to boot! MusicRogue also uses a smart algorithm to get users back to their call when a representative comes on the line saying something like, “hello, how can I help you”. Although it seems a bit leery to risk loosing one’s wait position with this new technology, MusicRogue claims the only way to lose a cell signal is how it’s lost now, (1) carrier drops the connection or (2) the company being called drops the call from their switchboard. There are other benefits to this approach too.

In a highly technological word most smartphones have good digital fidelity that will improve with each new release. Good sound is a natural bi-product. Secondly, users can choose “silence” to keep working at their computers or meditate if they see fit, or play a game on their smartphone. All the algorithm does is get users back to their calls, so it doesn’t matter what they choose to do so long as they won’t have to listen to crappy hold music and redundant advertising. Users playing their music should yield happier customers when service reps come on the line to resolve problems, possibly reducing customer conflicts and promoting employee retention.

With MusicRogue a 15-minute wait time will sound like a concert rather than a catfight. It’s time technology rescued humankind from on-hold music hell.

Jay Davies is co-founder of MusicRogue, former record industry slave, guitarist, and Cal alumni.