The Laws and Regulations Governing Music on Hold

The greatest advantage of telephone on hold music is that it lowers the call abandonment rate. This is important because, according to a recent CNN survey, about 35% of callers who drop their calls do not call back. A message on hold prevents boredom and the voice-overs such as ‘your call is important to us’ and ‘someone will be with you shortly’ keep callers on the calls. A survey by Cellular Marketing Magazine shows that 90% of callers prefer on hold messages to silence and a survey by Telemarketing Magazine shows that 25% to 40% of callers buy goods or services based on the information they heard while holding. This means including a promotion of your company and its products/services and including a call to action will lead to greater ROI (return on investment).


There are several sources of music for hold. These include off-the-shelf commercial CDs, custom-designed MOH (with or without voice-overs), stock MOH CDs (with or without voice-overs), online on hold, and radio. All the music can be played by a music on hold player. It is therefore, important that you buy a music on hold player that accommodates all the music sources. It is important that you know the laws and regulations governing these music sources so that you can pick the most appropriate source.


The only sources of music for hold that you could play with no fear of legal action are custom-designed MOH since you get to choose music that is not copyrighted and stock MOH CDs since these CDs are made for MOH and they therefore feature music that has already been licensed or that is not protected by copyright laws. You have to pay if the telephone on hold music is coming from the radio since even radio stations have to pay licenses themselves and they do not have re-broadcasting rights. With commercial CDs, only play the music if the users had gotten permission from the song’s title copyright owner (if the song is not in the ‘public domain’) and from the song’s mechanical copyright owner.  There are features that allow your music on hold player to select, download, and play music that does not infringe on copyright laws when playing online on hold music. It is therefore, important that you look at the features of your music on hold player before making a purchase.


You could get classical telephone on hold music since most classical music does not require licenses and you could use royalty free music which is available to license online, or through your on-hold production comapny.   If you want to get your music from radio, you could also get your music from subscription music sources like Muzak and the likes of Music Choice if you have cable TV service. Licenses are offered by BMI, AMS Music, and ASCAP, which are the U.S. representatives for music copyright owners. These are also the enforcement agencies. The current fine for playing radio music on hold is $1,500 if you get an out of court settlement. Generally, copyright infringement fines can range from $500 to $150,000.


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