#396 When the hold music is actually good

When I was in high school my friend Chad worked at a big-box electronics store down by the lake. He’d put on a shirt, tie, and giant clown-faced grin before selling bubble jet printers and floppy disks on Friday nights.

Since the rest of us were hopeless layabouts we’d aimlessly cruise around town sipping Slurpees before popping in to pick up Chad at the end of his shift. We’d show up a few minutes before closing, trade stinkeye with the manager, and then mindlessly flip through CDs and sit on the torn black leather couches watching neverending loops of Toy Story.

I still remember the terrible music that played over the sound system in that store. It was classical on a Casio keyboard peppered with in-house ads telling you to keep shopping. And they somehow wired this into their phone system too so if we called Chad and were put on hold we’d hear the same thing.

Whenever Chad punched out we’d all leave together and pass a new gang of shaggy, tired-eyed employees trudging in for the night shift. They were wearing torn jeans, carrying lunchboxes, and getting ready for a few hours of unpacking delivery trucks, stocking shelves, and buffing floors.

Now, these guys would feed an AC/DC or Metallica CD through the sound system and work all night headbanging while stocking shelves. Basically, since the systems were tied together it meant if you called the store at night looking for a friend you’d get pounding riffs of You Shook Me All Night Long or Enter Sandman while you were waiting.

Calling big box stores in the middle of the night isn’t common, but sometimes actually getting good hold music really does happen. Yes, it’s those rare moments during an annoying wait when the old fave chimes on out of nowhere. Sometimes that surprising song lifts your mood, sometimes it gives you a smile on a stressful day, and sometimes it transports you to another time or place, and sometimes it just feels


Photos from: here and here

41 thoughts on “#396 When the hold music is actually good

  1. Once, my debit card was eaten by a cash machine… I called my bank, they put me on hold and Jason Mraz was playing! Made me feel SO much better! Good hold music makes people less angry I think.

    1. No kidding! People are usually pretty unhappy to being with when they’re put on hold, so why aggravate the situation with crappy hold music?

  2. Whenever this happens, I yank the phone away from my ear and speakerphone it so I can prove to anyone around me that I’m getting to jam out to something good while on hold. Woohoo! Much, much better than being forced to listen to a lame, polyphonic-ringtone-sounding version of a possibly recognizable song.

    My dad works at a hospital, and they used to play instrumental BeeGees songs. Who knew such a thing was even in existence? Now they’re remodeling part of the hospital, so you’re stuck listening to some overly-enthusiastic lady rattle off facts and information about all the EXCITING NEW RENOVATIONS! I’m not sure which is worse.

  3. I don’t think I ever remember a time when I heard good hold music. Its all elevator music or annoying music.
    I will have to be on the lookout for good music.

  4. The company I work for used to have a Supertramp album for the hold music. It possibly was current when they first started using it!

  5. When it is really good hold music, I like to ask if they can put me back on hold. It is just so refreshing to hear something other than elevator music or when you call and they say, “You know you can manage your account and find most answers on our website.”

  6. My favorite hold music I’ve experienced was an office that was playing the Star Wars theme song. Random and Awesome!

  7. It’s 2010, there is no #@$%@#$#@ing reason why hold music needs to sound like it’s 70s muzak being piped in from a radio station in a snow storm in russia. Hook your damn system up to a free internet radio station before I drag you kick and screaming into the 21st century.

  8. Around 2002-3, Sprint has this kinda weird jazzy hold music.

    I don’t know why, but every time I heard it, it caused me to sway seductively, with this like 1-eyebrow raised, smirky facial expression.

    I was often caught. Doesn’t really explain well. And apparently, the song didn’t affect other people the same way.

  9. Some years ago I had to call (who? the celll phone company?) from a hotel room. The hold music was something I liked and it segued into another cut… they were playing an album. I lay back on the hotel room bed and enjoyed it.

    It wasn’t until the album finished and restarted and I heard the initial song again that I realized how long I’d been on hold (no, no one ever picked up. But I had to say I enjoyed the interlude.)

  10. Oh my goodness, I was just thinking about this the other day! I just started a new job and the hold music at the IT HelpDesk is great! I wish I could say the same about the hold music at my bank… :-P

  11. When I had the original hold music people told me to switch it, and when I did, they always had comments about the song I chose – so I switched it back.

  12. Talking of AWESOME hold music.. Saw the cinematic new music video for Microlite by the British band Trophy Wife, it has an iconic actor put on hold, then the band’s music is the music! really clever, and AWESOME too!
    However what is less awesome is what happens to the guy in the video, unlucky for some..
    How come more music videos can’t be as emotionally engaging?
    Love the blog, it’s… awesome!

  13. Haha how’s this for awesome hold music:
    I have an older iPod that has a broken display (makes it very hard to pick a song when my library has about 10k songs). The phone system in our new house is networked to a central box in the basement (manages inboxes, intercom, doorbell, etc.) While I was putting cable ties around all the cables for the sake of neatness, I noticed two little red and white audio jacks hanging down. I followed it up to the box, where it clearly plugged into a jack for hold music. I proceeded to go upstairs, at which point I loaded up my iPod with techno. So now when you call my house, you hear techno. Pretty awesome.

  14. While on hold with a registration company, minutes ago…I was thoroughly enjoying “Hotel California,” LIVE… it was so awesome… but then advertising messages kept cutting in and this was not awesome!!
    Really great when a company plays gold rock and you can just sing along to the whole tune while on hold…makes the wait Awesome!

    1. and the other day I was grooving to a Beatles medley, but when I’d sing, it would stop like it was saying, “Cut it out!” or “Welcome to the machine”, which was all a bit twilight zoney for me!

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  16. Here is our company’s waiting list :
    It’s based on what i read in forums like this :)

    Ace of Bace – I Saw The Sign (1993)
    Alphaville – Forever Young (1984)
    Amy Macdonald – This Is The Life (2008)
    Babybird – You’re Gorgeous (1996)
    Barry Manilow – Mandy (1974) Cover Scott English (1971)
    Beach Boys – California Dreamin’ (1986) Cover Mamas & Papas
    Beatles – Let It Be
    Bob Dylan – Knocking On Heavens Door (1973)
    Bread – Everything I Own (1972)
    Cure – A Forest (1980)
    Eagles, The – Hotel California
    Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (1983)
    Hammond & West – Give A Little Love (1987)
    Harry Nilsson – Without You (1971) Cover Badfinger (1970)
    Human League – Don’t You Want Me (1981)
    INXS – Never Tear Us Apart (1988)
    Jason Mraz – I’m Yours (2008)
    K-Ci & JoJo – All My Life [1998]
    Moby – Dream About Me (2005)
    Ocarina – Song Of Ocarina (1991)
    Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) – Electricity (1980)
    PPK – ResuRection
    Roxy Music – More Than This (1982)
    Stevie Wonder – Master Blaster (1980)
    Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home
    Vangelis – L’Opera Sauvage
    Vangelis – To The Unknown Man
    Westlife ft. Delta Goodrem – All Out Of Love
    Yael Naim – New Soul (2008)

    Let me know what you all think…
    is it too much eighties?

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