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The Accidental Radio Discovery That Created On-Hold Music

The Accidental Radio Discovery That Created On-Hold Music

Whether we find it annoying or not, that music we hear through our earbuds or phone speakers while we’re on hold is something we now expect. Sometimes it’s classical, sometimes jazzy. Even if we enjoy it, we long for it to end so we can finally speak to a human representative.

Still, it pacifies us a bit as hold music is better than complete silence. That’s its primary purpose. Interestingly, the inception of hold music occurred by chance, and without that fluke, we might not have on-hold music at all.

According to the Weird Facts website, the advent of hold music happened because of a loose wire and a faulty phone line connection.

A loose wire touching the steel frame of an office building caused it to act as a giant radio receiver, allowing callers to hear music from local radio stations while they waited on hold.

This marked the unofficial beginning of hold music. In the 1960s, the United States Patent office received an application for a Telephone Hold Program System from a factory owner named Alfred Levy, as noted by the Slate website.

One can only imagine what callers on hold thought when they started hearing a radio station playing through their phones. Alfred Levy was meanwhile investigating the peculiar issue with his factory’s phone lines playing music while his customers waited on hold.

Upon discovering that a loose wire touching a steel girder was picking up radio stations during hold times, Levy realized that callers no longer had to sit in silence. This discovery paved the way for the evolution of on-hold music as we experience it today.

It was in the 1980s that the first real competitor to on-hold music emerged. Messaging on Hold played music interspersed with a sultry voice promoting the business or company for a few seconds before returning to the music.

This transition to occasionally integrating marketing messages with the music has only added a modern twist to the hold experience. Still, whether it’s to soothe or subtly promote services and products, hold music has become a staple in customer service interactions.

Today, this music serves multiple purposes, from calming impatient customers to providing companies a chance to subtly advertise or inform. The transformation traced back to a simple technical glitch has turned into a multi-faceted tool appreciated by businesses and customers alike.

Source: Weird Facts, Slate