“A Customer Service Representative Will be With You Shortly” – The Psychology of On-Hold Music

How many times have you been put on “ignore” when you try to reach a company over the phone? Have you ever paid attention to the music they play as you way? Slate did and decided to investigate.

Who had the idea that there should be a soundtrack at all? Perhaps surprisingly, given that select late-19th-century audiences in Europe had actually received live opera broadcasts via telephone, the idea of hold music doesn’t seem to appear until fairly late in the 20th-century.What we may now forget is that, in the early days, one stayed “on hold” simply to make the call. It probably seemed a small price to pay. Writing about the first transatlantic telephone call from New York to Paris, in 1928, the New York Times described the dizzy experience: “For those who speak for the first time there is no thrill comparable to that which comes with first signal. ‘Your New York call is coming through.’ Hold the line. Wait a minute. That minute is a thing of very mixed emotions. One feels that something memorable should be spoken and can think of nothing to say.”

There’s more. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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