1507 NW 24TH AVENUE PORTLAND, OR  97210          
503-224-3766  1-800-277-5599    mail@soundfactory.com          

      Frequently Asked Questions!
Here at ONHOLD we get them all the time.  Below are answers to several topics we get asked often. If this is your first experience shopping for on-hold music and message services for your business phone, be sure to familiarize yourself with the Aesthetics section below.

Using radio or CDs

At ONHOLD we're often asked if you can play radio broadcast or your CD/MP3 music selections on your on-hold feature of the phone.  The short answer is: not legally without several permissions and fees.

Here's the explanation:

Music since the early 1900s has fallen under US copyright protection, anything before that may be in public domain.  Music under copyright, and that is every one from Irving Berlin to the Beastie Boys, is federally protected against unlicensed use for on-hold purposes.  To play, without consent, a commercial CD or rebroadcast the radio on your on-hold is a violation of federal law.  ASCAP, BMI and SESAM protect authors against unlawful use.  For more information or to obtain paid permission to use licensed, copyright music see this ASCAP FAQ page:

One more thing.  All recordings of music are ALSO protected against unlawful use by a US mechanical copyright.  The record company issuing the recording will own this and you must secure permission from them before legally playing any recorded music under copyright.


Before you order your first ONHOLD music and message recording, we recommend you consider the "aural" image and the impact our services have on callers.

Adding music to your on-hold program is known to relax, even pacify callers. Studies conclude that when music plays, many callers lose some sense of time elapsed "on-hold."  In addition, music sets a potent aural sense of your business image -- long before callers are engaged in conversation, they hear what your company sounds like while on-hold.

Adding periodic verbal messages provide a range of advantages. On-hold messages cannot draw new business to call your company, but it will cross-sell products or services -- informing callers of things available to them they were previously unaware of.  Not all messaging need be sales related, but can refer to service hours, location and operational information vital to the callers needs.

The effect of these messages can vary greatly by listener and by the choices you make regarding your ad-copy. The choice of male or female voice-talent, length of text, speed of read, ratio of music-to-text and message content -- all the elements we call "aesthetics" -- have strong effects on callers and corporate image.
Your callers are on-hold for longer periods of time than you probably realize.  While times vary by each business, we find the average hold time is between 30 and 50 seconds whenever a call cannot be expeditiously routed. And if your callers are parked in a "queue", waiting for the next available representative, then you know they may be waiting much longer.
Advertising research has proven that making an impact on a listener requires they recognize the benefits of a product or service through a personal experience - an empathetic exchange -- understanding how a product or service will aid them, make life easier, better, more profitable, etc. When it comes to the text of your messages, we always recommend that to best impact your callers the ad-copy should cover not just features but also benefits   

Message lengths vary greatly by the choice of content. Feature-only messages are always shorter in length, but carry low impact on a listener.  Describing the benefit of a product or service adds time and length to the message but relates directly to the "emotional interest" of the listener.  To the point: "When the benefit of a product or service is not shared with the listener, they are far less apt to extrapolate the benefit or arrive at the conclusion that you offer what they need. "

Consequently, the length of each message should be considered by:
  1. the average length of time a caller is apt to be on-hold;
  2. whether you desire feature or feature/benefit ad-copy -- for the greatest impact on callers and;
  3. the impact these choices have on your corporate image.
RATIO of music to text
The callers you put on-hold are "captive" listeners and we believe that care should be taken in selecting the right balance of on-hold entertainment. The vast majority of callers genuinely like on-hold music and messaging, particularly when they're getting information that is useful to them. To respect that "captive" listener, we urge customers to try maintaining an even balance between music and text. While music is always present on the program, it goes "under" when text is being said and it is far too easy, when attempting to get as many topic ideas, features and benefits into a Custom music and message program, to have the program be too "text-heavy" -- with woefully short music breaks.

RATIO - selling vs. customer service
"Captive" listeners also have a peculiar way of perceiving your intention when it comes to the on-hold entertainment. Regardless of your topic mix, some callers will assume that your program is just a sales tool.  It is, therefore, of value to consider the ratio of selling and cross-selling messages to customer service and general information messages. A captive listener may not want to hear a continuing list of sales messages. Consider offering a balance between selling and non-sale topics for your ad-copy.

Your ONHOLD program is a mix of different topics, at a certain set length for impact, balanced my musical interludes, wedged into a 6 to 8 minute recording.  Therefore, an important aesthetic question is: "how fast should the reading of the ad-copy go?"  The speed-of-the-read helps determine how many topics (at what length and by what ratio of music to text) can fit into the production time. The speed of the read can also create energy and excitement or become difficult for callers to understand and it follows that some listeners will assume that an "up-tempo" ad-copy reading is simply a way to "cram" your program with wall-to-wall selling.
Finally, the choice of male or female voice talent can make a difference.  If your products and services are geared to women or women tend to be the majority of calls you receive, you may want to select a female voice - selecting a woman to speak to and on behalf of her peers.  If your business is traditional, old school or old money, you may find that a male voice commands the gentle authority you require.  Then again, you might need to consider what voice-type best represents the aural image you wish to convey of your company.

vs. Digital players   

Here at ONHOLD, we love digital on-hold players.  But, they are not the most cost-effective player system available to you.  In fact, they are 4 to 5 times more expensive than other players available - from your local home electronics retailer.

All on-hold digital players playback your recorded program from a common audio file type, loaded up by means of a cassette drive, floppy disk, smart card or USB memory stick -- depending on manufacturer and model.  Some download and record the program to an internal memory, some play back continuously from the load-up medium (disk or stick) and all have auto-reset programs to restart your music and message program once power is restored, should electrical power be interrupted.

If your offices suffer from regular power surges, brown or blackouts, outages and the like, we do recommend an on-hold digital player. The auto-restart is a vast timesaving feature that insures that you have on-hold program playing within a few minutes of power restoration.

If power outages are a rarity where you are, here at ONHOLD, we always recommend that clients run their on-hold program from an audio CD or MP3 player - ones you can find at Best Buy, Radio Shack and many local home electronic stores.  And, with these home digital players, you can use a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) to protect against some stoppages due to power fluctuations and changes, for a short 10-45 minute duration.

Most of our customers never have to worry about power interruptions, but if your CD or MP3 player should stop, you will simply need to go back to the room where it is installed, turn it on and reset the mode for endless repeat.  This should take less than 2 minutes.  That's not much bother to save $100 and more in equipment costs.

MP3 vs. CD players

For many years, when new clients seek the best on-hold audio -- at the lowest cost - we have recommended our ONHOLD on CD™ services.

Personal CD players have been historically easy to find, buy and replace, although they operate with some moving parts and will wear out in 2 to 3 years of continuous use.  Priced between an average of $45 and $65, with an AC adapter, these players are highly dependable, repeat audio track playback in continuous mode and offer superb redbook audio, CD quality, stereo audio fidelity - at 16 bit/44.1khz sample rate -- superior sound reproduction compared to any digital on-hold player.

However, we are finding some manufacturers are dropping portable CD players from their product lines. More to the point, because they have moving parts which wear out in 2-3 years we are recommending clients move on to the newest home electronic product: the MP3 player

More and more, we recommend the use of an MP3 player and USB AC adapter as the most cost-effective on-hold player type available to our clients.  Easily found on the internet, at home electronics and major chain drug stores, these USB MP3 players cost as low as $20-$25.   They perform as well as any $175 digital on-hold player (with the exception of the manual restart upon power outage/flux) , and although they play compressed MP3 audio files, their resulting audio fidelity is a daunting match to any CD player.

While the smallest models are about 1 gigabyte in memory, any MP3 player with over 512 MB memory will work as long as it has a NiMH or Li-ion rechargeable battery.  To keep the battery charged and the player operating continuously, a USB AC adapter is also required - easily found for as low as $5-$6 on the internet, a little higher at Radio Shack and other stores.