/ Shopping, Technology

Your view: letting go of hold music

Phone and radio

In Lisa Barber’s discussion about background music on shops (more on that soon), the conversation turned to hold music. I decided not to accuse commenters of going off topic, as hold music also gets my goat.

Malcolm R gets our Comment of the Week for bringing up on-hold music:

‘I’ve just endured 12 minutes of what might have been “heavy metal” music (if I knew what it was – lots of loud jangling and thumping, anyway) whilst waiting on the telephone.

‘When you have to put up with long waits you need something to let you know you are still connected, but why not play gentle music – some Chopin piano perhaps – unless, perhaps, the aim was to get you to put the phone down.’

Tell me about it Malcolm. Is there anything more annoying than hold music when you’re calling up to complain? It especially enrages me when the music is ‘happy’, as Lee Beaumont says:

‘When you speak to the complaints team at network Three they have a song called Happy by Pharrell Williams as the on-hold music. Really strange.’

Wavechange has a tongue-in-cheek response to overly cheerful hold music:

‘Perhaps we should give them a bit of their own treatment. If we have to go to the customer services desk we could play something awful like (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.’

I’m not sure I’d call Rolling Stones awful, but I like the message all the same.

Solutions to annoying hold music

Another option would be to be able to pick your own hold music, as Nigel Clarke points out:

‘I agree some hold music is truly awful and not having to wait on hold is the best option, but at least at least some companies like Aviva give you a choice of music…’

Elaine Jacobs’ answer is to get companies to phone you back:

‘Scottish Power go one better and offer to phone you back within, say, twenty minutes.’

There is some hold music I do enjoy. One of the companies that provides photos for Which? Conversation plays Mahna Mahna by The Muppets. I can’t help but reply ‘do do, do do do’, sometimes to embarrassment as the phone is answered mid ‘do do’.

Does on-hold music get on your nerves, or is there some hold music that you do like?


One that made me laugh but might not have been so funny for a grieving relative was when I phoned a LIFE insurance company a few years back: on comes the “hold” music – Queen’s “Another one bites the dust”!

Norma says:
28 July 2014

Couldn’t agree more! This is a very timely topic. I have just spent the last few days on the phone to O2 about my mobile contract and have endured what seemed like a lifetime of waiting on each occasion. I complained bitterly to them mire than once about the truly dreadful ‘music’ being played and on each occasion got a sympathetic response from the person on the other end who said that they hated having to listen to it also!! Each time, they explained that there was nothing they could do as the music was probably selected by some firm with a contract with theirs! Marvellous. What interests me is the way these people -on the phone and in the shops – always seem to take the view that nothing can be done and that ‘we all’ just have to put up with it. I am fed up with trying to explain that, as the customer I should NOT HAVE to put up with it! Very pleased to see Which is taking up the cudgels on our behalf!


I would just like some extra options on the phone line : “Press 1 to continue without music or Press 2 to listen to our choice of music”.

I suppose somebody would then add further options under “2” for rock, pop, easy listening, jazz, classical, vocal, orchestral, steel band, etc etc, with further sub-sets for specific genres [Val Doonican, house, garage, Wavechange, hip hop, Beethoven, Bernstein, Beyoncé, The Singing Nun, and so forth].


I’m not familiar with Wavechange music, John. 🙂 If I have visitors I won’t inflict my choice of (mainly orchestral) music on them.


John, you would spend so much time listening to the choices you would not notice how long you were on hold. A great idea! I must check on Wavechange and the Singing Nun, is it in Amazon?

I don’t mind ‘hold’ music – provided it is not too loud. When you are on hold for 10 minutes or so, a silent line would be worrying to me as I would be anxious about being disconnected without realising. As I put my phone on speaker and go about my business the music reassures me that I’m still connected. But I still have no wish to be on hold, to music or silence, for more than 5 -10 minutes.

A campaign to get our major companies to answer the phone to their ‘so important customers’ within 5 minutes would benefit all of us.


I say again, cut out the click every 20 seconds with a voice announcing the lie that the call is important etc. If the caller leaves the music playing on speaker he would then know that when there is a click and voice then someone is saying something important, not just repeating a barefaced lie.

But companies should be required to provide contact by several media so that customers can chose that which suits them the best.


If I have been waiting long I mention this when I finally get to speak to someone. The phone records the time since the start of the call. I have also commented on the annoying music and it is evident that some people working in call centres are not always aware that we are hearing music while on hold.

To make the wait less painful I put a handset for my cordless phone in my pocket and get on with some housework until the music or repeated messages stops.


To add detail to my previous post . . . Val Doonican was a popular Irish crooner from the 1960’s with an extremely relaxed style and noted for bringing the cardigan back into fashion. The Singing Nun stormed the UK charts about fifty years ago with a song in French called “Dominique”; I think she really was a Belgian nun in the Dominican order. Wavechange Music is harmonious and easy on the ear with never a hint of syncopation; it is in the Middle Metal range as it is usually scored for domestic appliances, laboratory appparatus and radio valves. I am glad Which? is taking this seriously because we all seem to want Peace in Boots and All Quiet in the Homebase.


Your wisdom and with are a powerful combination, John. 🙂

I hope that everyone who is opposed to extraneous music is doing their best to make the perpetrators aware that some of us really don’t like it.