Why can’t I just use the radio, iPod or other MP3 player for our office Music On Hold (MOH)?

Copyrights & Wrongs

You’ve got a great phone system (hopefully you have moved up to a Voice over IP phone system by now!) and you want to use all the great features of it.

One feature that is common to (most) all VoIP systems is that you can use Music On Hold (MOH) which gives the poor caller who gets placed on hold something to listen to other than dead air, or beep, or, God forbid, constant ringing like I got the other day for 2 minutes solid when calling a very large vendor for support.  RING RING RING AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The trend for the last few years has been to get voice talent to record promotional messages, combined with music that makes the time spent on hold for the client productive. A large number of sales have been made due to a promotional message telling a holding client about services or sales specials offered. I guess the impulse buyers hear, “Did you know we offer Microsoft Licensing?” and immediately place an order for 1000 seats of Microsoft Office 2010 or something. Hmmm, maybe we should do that here at Homeland?

The costs of having these messages produced vary from 5 dollars (if you want an Indian accent) to thousands of dollars, with the average falling at about 500 dollars for high quality, professional voice talent and music to be provided.

Some businesses have gone the extreme budget route and recorded their own messages, complete with lots of “uhhhs” and the like and plenty of background noise.

A smaller organization may just want to plug in a radio to the MOH port on the phone system and let that play, or maybe use their iPod or other MP3 player to put on their favorite tunes. I mean, let’s get real here, if you like Adele and Rhianna, your clients should love it to!

There’s a slight problem with that. Okay, not so slight; You are using unlicensed music which could result in law suits and fines…

The music that you own already, which you purchased off of iTunes or Amazon, or even own the vinyl record that you converted over to an MP3, is not your’s for public performance. Confused? Me too! Basically, there is a difference between owning the right to play that music for yourself, and the right to play it for others to hear.

So what’s a soul to do in order to provide entertainment on hold in the form of music?

  • You could find “royalty free” music, but be warned, it won’t keep a licensing organization from coming after you. You could STILL get a letter to cease the use of that music with the threat of lawsuit or fines if they believe it is owned by them. Make sure you can backup the fact that the music is in the public domain, the person/group performing it do not have a copyright on it and that it is not just released for listening or performance, that it has no “mechanical copyright” on it which would prohibit you from using it in the manner you wish to use it.
  • There are licensing entities such as ASCAP and BMI which you can pay in order to use the music which you want to play. You can license a single song in some cases, or get a blanket license to use anything from their repertoire.
  • There are “music on hold” providers, which take care of all the licensing for you (be careful here, there are some shady ones). These are the ones who will give you professional voice talent if you want that, along with a genre of music that is appealing to your callers, hopefully.
  • You could find a local musician who writes and produces their own original content and tell them you would like to showcase their talent on your on-hold system. Get it in writing that they are giving you permission to use their original music for a set time, and what the cost is. It may be free!

I am sure I have overlooked something as I am no expert in this field. But, this may be give you an idea of what you are up against regarding Music On Hold.

Myself, I am sad I can’t use a loop of Sugarloaf’s “Don’t Call us, We’ll Call you” to play to telemarketers….

If you do decide to hire a professional voice artist in the Greenville / Upstate area, please email me and I may be able to point you in the right direction.


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