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Why Is On Hold Music So Cheesy and Annoying?

Amazing as it is, on hold music can still be cheesy and annoying.

Why is that amazing? Well, quite simply there is no excuse for on hold music to be annoying or cheesy in 2019. There is now an abundance of really good quality, interesting and enjoyable music tracks available. Furthermore, they can be easily licensed for a reasonable fee.

A bit of history

Music on hold was terrible at one time. There just weren’t the options previously. You had mainstream music (which cost a lot to use) or low-quality library music that was synonymous with lift music and test cards (if you are old enough to remember them).

Welcome to the stage Greensleeves

To avoid the costs quite a few old systems had music like Greensleeves. This was cheap as the music was out of copyright. However, in that scenario, you can’t just use the version from a classical album as there would be copyright in the arrangement and recording. For this reason, somebody decided it would be best to create a computer-generated version to send people completely stir-crazy while on hold.

The music you can listen to

Fortunately, there is an abundance of music available now from talented artists and you can license their music for a small one time fee to use in your on hold system. There are many sources, but we have some great tracks.

Not only do we have the collection of popular tracks on our website, but we also have a larger royalty free music library where the choice is overwhelming. This is why we offer a smaller collection on our website.

Mainstream music

It is an option, but you will need to pay an annual music license to your local Performance Royalty Organisation (PRO). These collect revenue on behalf of the artists and then share it between the various record labels. You avoid this with library music as it is all composed by independent composers and producers.


Whatever your choice, think about the person who is on hold. What sort of mood will they be in? Will they be on hold for long? Do you need more than one piece? Should it be relaxing or motivational? Do you want to include marketing messages? etc.

According to a survey Greensleeves is the most hated on hold music, so perhaps avoid that one. Leicester University’s psychology department study suggests that callers would hold on the line for 20% longer if they were played hold music rather than a simple voice message. I guess that is reason enough to spend a bit of time picking the right track and spending a little money to use it.

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