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This may not be a sysadmin question for some, but it is definitely a hurdle I have to jump as the sysadmin for my company.

We recently rolled-out a company wide VoiP system (Switchvox, to be exact) that has come preloaded with some royalty-free music on hold. Our customers have been complaining that the music on hold sounds like "funeral music." This may be the case (although I wouldn't want it played at my funeral), but it is all we have and we aren't willing to be sued over using music that isn't properly licensed.

So, that brings me to the question asked in the title -- what and/or how do you provide decent music on hold? I'm assuming many people here use a PBX that allows customized music, so this has to apply to many of you.

We've been looking at some sites that allow you to download royalty-free music for a one-time fee, but the music seems...lame. Something like a one-year subscription from ibaudio.com seems to be the best bet so far. Have you been able to discover something a little more mainstream for a decent licensing fee?

Thank you.

EDIT: Our PBX allows the playback of MP3 and OGG files, but does not allow streaming of a live audio source, Internet-based or otherwise. It also does not allow the use of a "line-in" source such as a CD player or radio.

Don't let this stop you from sharing your setup, though. I'm interested in hearing what everyone uses!

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16 Answers 16

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can find lots of good royalty-free music at http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/. He's got lots of original content that is suitable for music on hold, and we use several songs available there.

Coincidentally, I found that site by Googling for "royalty free music".

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I've been rummaging through the trusty Google search and haven't come across anything promising yet. That's why I'm asking you guys! Regardless, I'll look into that site. Thank you. –  Russ Warren Jul 8 '09 at 21:06
    
We actually use one of this guys tracks. incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/… Our track is Human Beat. –  Matt Jul 8 '09 at 21:30

For years we played the CDs of a band owned by a friend of mine (written and produced), it was jazzy with Latin flavors. He allowed this to happen, so no worry about paying him royalties. An idea would be to talk to a somewhat good local band(s) to see if they'd be willing to do the same thing. I'm not aware of online subscriptions... I certainly wouldn't pay for it those as I know a bunch of bands, I'm not aware of any legal causes against that.

Using a CD, copyrighted WMAs/MP3s, or the radio would be cause for some legal battles if caught: http://www.musiconhold.com/musiconhold/legal_issues_with_music_on_hold.php (Even though I also can't think of anyone being sued for this, I definitely wouldn't want to be 'the first one')

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I am tempted to suggest that you look at using Creative Commons licensed music. It seems like this would be legal depending on what exact license it was under.

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Do you have any type of sales in your company? If if not sales, but company events or notices, updates. You can create your own custom hold messages and import them into the system. You can even inter twine them with the music you find.

I have been very familiar with the cisco callmanagers and have created custom hold messages/music. One time we had the radio station make up a hold music for us. It had our advertising and music mix. Something like. Thanks for holding, did you know that with our blah blah blah, etc. You have hear them before.

So do not discount creating your own...

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Two issues here ...

1- Technical Capability
You should confirm that your system even has a functioning audio input. The VoIP system implemented at a previous employer came loaded with hold music that was unacceptable to the audiophile CEO. This particular system did not have a way to pipe in an audio source as hold music; rather the system played specifically named files in particular folders on the server. We ended up writing a script to swap hourly from a selection of 100 or so songs approved by the owner.
--> the first year when he came in the day after Thanksgiving with holiday CDs we had to scramble!

2- Legal/Copyright
IANAL, but it is apparently not a copyright violation to play copyrighted music without permission as hold music because it is a "broadcast". My understanding is that pumping a radio station through MoH is legally problematic for different (?FCC?) reasons. That being said, I have never heard of a company being sued for hold music.
--> I have no idea about the legal issues around pushing an internet radio or satellite radio station through the hold music.

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I'll edit my question to clarify the technical aspects of my PBX, although I wanted to leave things a little open-ended in that regard. Our PBX will play both MP3 and OGG files, but it does not have the ability to use a live audio source of any kind. Ideally, we would like to just upload plain-old MP3 files and queue them up to play randomly. We're just unsure about the legality of playing popular (read: copyrighted) MP3s without a special broadcast license. –  Russ Warren Jul 8 '09 at 21:37

I think a lot of companies use a cd player or something like that with a standard 1/8" jack to their PBX.

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3  
The problem with doing that is that you still have to pay royalties for broadcasting that music! –  Ernie Jul 8 '09 at 20:42
    
Is that really the case? If so, i wasn't aware that you couldn't just grab a classical music cd and push play. –  DanBig Jul 8 '09 at 20:44
    
I think that the New York Philharmonic Orchestra wouldn't be terribly impressed with that however. :) Which is why they charge money for their CDs. The music is free (and public domain). Their interpretation and recording is not. –  Ernie Jul 8 '09 at 20:47
    
Preach it Ernie! –  Matt Jul 8 '09 at 21:31
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I really don't know why Dan's post was voted down, as there are a great many companies simply using CD players and the like. Some pay a license fee to ensure they are legal, while others just go for it and hope they get away with it. –  John Gardeniers Jul 8 '09 at 21:44

I discussed this with our phone system maintainer recently and he told me quite a few of his customers are now using ipods for music on hold, sometimes even with pre-recorded messages. Again, the legal aspect needs to be considered but will everyone please try and remember that laws vary from place to place. What's illegal where you are may be perfectly legal elsewhere.

In a previous position we used a radio to supply the music (and paid a license fee). This caused no end of argument about which station to have it tuned to. When we relocated the radio reception was inadequate, so I looked for an alternative. I ended up using on old low spec PC running Windows XP. On that I placed about 1,000 MP3 tracks chosen jointly by all the staff. Media Player was set to play them looping and randomly.

One problem we encountered is that Media Player, I think it may have been version 9, wasn't stable enough to run continuously, crashing the machine within 2 days. This was solved by a simple reboot ever night, with a startup script used to restart Media Player. It's now been working fine for about 4 or 5 years.

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Try having a look at the creative commons search engine also try looking for "PodSafe or Podcast Safe" music but just make sure the authors don't have it under a license that requires you to do attribution.

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Several organisations I've come across pipe commercial-free radio as their hold-music.

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Just a tip: most callers will hate whatever it is that you choose.

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1  
ING Direct has some really cool hold "music" - the guy (from the commercials) tells you all sorts of interesting facts and figures. Quite amusing :) –  Izzy Jul 8 '09 at 20:54
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In fact, here's a sample of some of their on-hold messages: ingdirect.ca/en/aboutus/whoweare/whatwereupto/onhold.html –  Izzy Jul 8 '09 at 20:56
    
I'm I the only guy who appreciates good On-Hold music? By "Good", I mean NOT 80s music, or any kind of experimental 'electronica'. –  l0c0b0x Jul 8 '09 at 21:51
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I thought good on hold music was the on hold music you did not have to sit and listen to. –  Troggy Jul 9 '09 at 15:50

I have even seen some companies just plug in a radio and turn it to some neutral local radio station.

You will always have someone that will complain about the music.

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One place I called used NPR, it made being on hold almost enjoyable.

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If this were legal I would DEFINITELY agree! –  l0c0b0x Jul 8 '09 at 21:31

We're providing sound files for VoIP phone systems. Some want mostly music with the occasional “thank you for holding” narrative…some prefer a mostly spoken word narration with music under and between the messages. The better music does seem to come with license…but there some good license free out there.

Usually, an on hold program is best if looped…and many VoIP systems only play from the beginning of the file every time a call goes on hold. There are also broad variations on the duration/size of the allowed file. Happy to share our experience off line. Here’s a page we put up on this topic…may be helpful. - Dan http://onholdmarketing.com/cisco-moh.html

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In Terms of the legal aspects I can only say for Australia what the case is.

Ive done a bit of research into ambient music in a business. Its considered " Playing in a public place". What this means is that you need to have a license from APRAA for the lyrics and music, and IF the medium is on your premises ie CD, iPod etc you also need a license from PPCA which covers the actual recording. The above is specifically for ambient music In Australia.

I know that APRAA has a separate license for Music on Hold and in that case I would guess that PPCA would as well.

there is DEFINITELY legal issues if the music has to be licensed, ie in anyway commercial, or a radio Internet or otherwise.

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Ours is included in the Virtual PBX system got from Ringcentral.Sure to make callers feel the good ambiance of the music on hold service.

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protected by Iain Aug 26 '11 at 15:01

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