/ Technology

‘Press one to hang up on hold music’

Can there be anything more irritating than being left waiting on hold when calling a customer service line? Yes. Being left on hold while listening to Justin Bieber on repeat. For 30 minutes.

This was the fresh hell that awaited me last week when I called my broadband provider, and one that has prompted me to ask – do we really need hold music?

It was at around minute 20 of Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’, that the cynic in me wondered whether the company was deliberately picking awful music in the hope that its customers would give up on the call (so as to retain their sanity). It certainly crossed my mind, but it had become a battle of wills, and I was determined to win this one-sided audio tug of war with Bieber.

I did win in the end, but frankly I came away an empty, soulless husk of a man. Albeit a soulless husk of a man that knew every single word to Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that Justin Bieber has his fans but, as they are mostly children, I can’t see many of them calling their broadband supplier as the main account holder to resolve a fault with their router.

Is it time to put a hold on hold music?

Advancements, I’m told, are being made in the world of hold music. Some companies let you select which song or genre of music you would prefer to listen via the keypad. So it could be option ‘one’ for Justin Bieber, or option ‘two’ for the sound of, say, a metal chair being pushed across the world’s biggest dining hall.

Given these two options, my number ‘two’ button would be worn to a nub.

I’ve been told that some people actually enjoy hold music, if you can believe such a thing. Which? Convo’s very own Patrick Steen, has told me that he enjoys calling a company simply because its hold music is the ‘Mahna Mahna’ song from The Muppets. It’s no small coincidence that since he told me this I have stopped acknowledging him in the corridor.

So what’s the solution? Personally, nothing would make me happier than no more hold music, ever. Or at least give me the option to not hear it. Are the companies genuinely fearful that if they don’t pipe out some pop, I might forget what I’m doing and wander off mid-call?

Do you think hold music is a necessary evil that needs to be done away with? And what are your own stories of horrific hold music? Can you beat my Bieber hell?

Hold music or no hold music? That is the question:

No hold music - please save my ears (46%, 161 Votes)

It depends on the music (anything but Justin Bieber) (46%, 161 Votes)

Hold music - I like a tune on customer service lines (7%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 355

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linda says:
18 July 2012

I think if you were given a choice of music, it would alert you to the fact you could be in for a long wait! They’ve also moved away from classical music, haven’t they, which I think was meant to keep you calm, which they’ve gone passed worrying about nowadays…


A very good point Linda. When the music kicks in, you know it could be quite a wait. If you called a company and they were playing ‘Longplayer’, the worlds longest song (it currently clocks in at 12 years, but is set to run for 1000), you would be a little concerned…

I’d still take it over Bieber, though.


Indeed it did make me suspect a long wait when I heard “Press 1 for pop, 2 for jazz, 3 for classical.” On another occasion, the classical music that one company chose for their hold music was Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war” when I had just rang them to make a complaint!


I don’t like the ‘hold’ music played nowadays. I like the music they used to play on the television when the test card was showing [some of it was really rather good]. It’s a pity they can’t revive some of those old tapes. Alternatively, they should play that touching melody “All our advisers are busy” from the second act of the great opera The Thieving Gas Co. . . .Oh yes, . . . they already do that.


I’m not a Bieber fan either, but I wouldn’t blame him – the same problem would occur with any song played repeatedly. Even one of my favourites would start to grate after a third or fourth play while I’m hanging on the phone. I’ve been trying to sort something out with my bank recently, which has required a lot of hold time, and the music that I initially thought was quite nice (soothing, not too irritating, quite generic, etc) has now become the noise that I have nightmares about because it signifies an agonising wait for a customer service advisor.

The best alternative to hold music, in my opinion, is a callback service. That way you can hang up, turn the radio to yoru favourite station, and listen to whatever *you* like while you’re waiting for an operator to call you back.

Chris hargreaves says:
18 July 2012

Ok I started a game on Twitter but lost with 10,000 green bottles on a wall, 9,999 green bottles on a wall counting down whilst on hold and you get cut off when it reaches 1 (Which? tweet), I Know a song that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves and Forever in a day – Hang Up, Try Again.

Any better or worse songs you could have whilst on hold?

Phil says:
18 July 2012

Thirty minutes of Justin Bieber sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.

I’d take it up with the ECHR if I were you.


You can have the alternative of some message offering you other products and services sold by the company. Just what you want if you are waiting patiently to make a complaint.

Daz says:
18 July 2012

It would be nice if you could choose which radio station you wanted while-u-wait. However going through them all to pick which u like would be another problem whilst providing a possible solution?