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Hold Music Substitution

Having just spent the better part of an hour working my way through various phone trees and listening to a metric crapload of insipid hold music, I realized that there’s a huge product opportunity just waiting for someone to exploit.  I don’t have the engineering skills to describe it for a patent, let alone make one, so I’m going to toss this into the public sphere in the hopes that somebody takes it and runs with it.  If you become a multi-zillionaire off this idea, then bully for you!  I hope you’ll remember me when that time comes with a nice cushy spot in your web division or at least a bunch of stock options, but if not, at least the world will be a slightly better place thanks to the two of us.

What I want is an office phone that’s also a iPod dock.  It would charge the iPod when docked, and also be able to play through the speakerphone, handset, or headset.  And here’s the really useful part: it mutes the incoming signal when there’s hold music and plays the iPod.  When it detects a human voice, it pauses the iPod and passes the incoming signal through.  If the hold music comes back, it goes back to blocking the incoming music and plays its own.

In other words, it would let me define my own hold music, rather than have to tolerate what someone else thinks is soothing.  I would pay an exorbitant premium for that product, and there’s no way I’m the only one.  So somebody get right on that, would you?

22 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1323
    Ben Tucker wrote in to say...

    Better yet, I’d like a button I could just push, which would essentially put the call on hold on my end, then when a human voice (or ringing) is discovered by the phone, it would audibly notify me, alerting me to pick up and talk to the person. It could even have a little recording it’d play through the line, like “please hold for so-and-so…” to the operator doesn’t hang up you’re slow picking up.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1422
    Matthew Steiner wrote in to say...

    The problem is that you would have to develop it to work with so many different phone manufacturers. You could sell your idea to the phone system manufactures though and have a port built directly into the phone? I like yourself have some really good ideas, but they would take massive amounts of time to implement. Could make you rich though!

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1435
    Steve wrote in to say...

    You may not necessarily have to work with different phone manufacturers if you have your phone on a PBX system. I actually won a product that lets me put on MP3s to use as hold music, but it requires a PBX system (or one other that I can’t recall at the moment) to use. Since I do not have such a system, I’m looking at potentially selling it. Anyway, I imagine that using something along the lines of an interactive voice response (IVR) system would take care of human voice detection part.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1510
    Andrew T. Fry wrote in to say...

    I was actually thinking of this very idea while driving home from work on my cell phone yesterday. Ideally it would involve some sort of hold signal specification. It could use an audible signal that would be picked up by properly equipped phones, then on a standard phone it would just be a courtesy beep to inform the user they’ve been placed on hold. Anyway, it’s a thought.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1614
    Matt Winckler wrote in to say...

    I would think you could avoid the phone model compatibility problem entirely by simply making this a device that does not integrate with the phone but rather taps into the phone line between the phone and the wall. So you’d plug the phone line from the wall into the Magic Hold Music Killer (MHMK) device, then another line from the MHMK to the phone itself. The MHMK becomes sort of like a “man in the middle” attack, filtering out hold music when activated and replacing it with the music of your choice.

    Of course, something integrated with a phone would probably be more compact and convenient to use, but that step would come later, once phone manufacturers saw how many millions of people bought your standalone product.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1745
    Nathanael wrote in to say...

    I think you’re all onto something here; it’s too ambitious to try and introduce a technology that consumers, phone manufacturers and places that use queuing systems all have to embrace. It’d never happen.

    Matt’s MHMK (Mimik?) is probably the most feasible technology; any sort of music that the queuing system at the other end plays is going to have a recognisable signature that differs it from a voice waveform – at the very least a large frequency spectrum. I think that fact is reliable enough to be able to implement an automatic hold music detector.

    Now – how about mobile phones?

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1826
    Ben Buchanan wrote in to say...

    Personally I think companies with very long hold waits should be switching to callbacks. When they get to your spot in the queue, they ring you. If they don’t like the cost of calling people back, well, they should put more staff on in their call centre and eliminate the wait.

    After all, if I’m ringing a company then they probably already have my money, or – perhaps even more critically for them – I’m working out whether they’re going to get my money.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Jan 2007
    • 1913
    Nathanael wrote in to say...

    Good point Ben – I had an email from my ISP the other day asking for me to provide updated payment details; I wrote back saying they can call ME.

    Reasoning?

    Well I know with a well-known telecommunications company in particular, whenever I have to ring up I end up talking to at least 3 people, have to provide my phone number and account password each time, spend total of 20+ minutes in 6 queues (with 12 different voices – “Your call has progressed in the queue) and each time explain why I’m calling, then wait while they get my details up on screen.

    No – FIRST you get my details up on screen, THEN call ME – and we can get it over and done with in 30 seconds.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1026
    Peter wrote in to say...

    I hate to be a killjoy, but I suspect there are licensing issues that would prevent you from being able to *legally* use such a device to play your own music on hold.

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1106
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    Why, Peter? I’d be using an iPod containing my music to play my music in place of the incoming signal, and only I would hear my music (unless it was on speakerphone, but still). I can’t see where licensing would even come into it, unless there’s a law somewhere that requires me to listen to hold music.

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1337
    Tim wrote in to say...

    Please read my article at: http://www.easyonhold.com/royalty_free_hold_music_options.php

    The playing of music on hold is considered a “performance” since it is being presented to others, as opposed to personal use. That goes for in-store music, too.

    How would you like to be informed that you have been sued for $400,000 for playing music in your store? Larry Leigh, owner of Leigh”s and Mettie”s women”s clothing stores in Grand Rapids, found out the hard way about penalties for unlicensed music use. Several years ago, he received a letter from licensing organization ASCAP stating that he was violating copyright regulations by playing tapes and CDs in his stores. Unfortunately, Leigh got some bad advice from the business that installed his store stereo system, having assured assured him he didn”t need to worry. Two years later, he was sued by ASCAP for $400,000. His attorney informed him that his chances of winning the suit were not good, he settled out of court for a $5,000 fine.

    • #12
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1341
    Tim wrote in to say...

    The Skutch Electronics phone: HT-878-POH lets you plug in any sound source to play music when the hold button is pressed. This is analog, 2-line, and does not activate the music on any other phone in the office. Suggested List Price: $115.00. http://www.skutchelectronics.com.

    • #13
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1348
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    You seem to be fundamentally misunderstanding my proposal, Tim. I’m talking about a system that will play my music for me while I’m on hold with someone else, overwriting the music they’re playing. I’m not proposing a system that plays hold music for someone who has called me when I put them on hold.

    • #14
    • Comment
    • Wed 24 Jan 2007
    • 1723
    Nathanael wrote in to say...

    That’s right – the queue/hold system at the other end will have no idea; it’s just pumping out that same insipid hold music – what you do with it at your end is up to you and cannot be a breach of music licensing as you are simply playing your music to yourself using your phone and another device to control the on/off of your music.

    • #15
    • Comment
    • Sat 27 Jan 2007
    • 1126
    John Burns wrote in to say...

    Eric,

    How is it that the various Phone/voice systems (Avaya, Octel, etc) and companies using them – don’t offer one or more alternatives that you could tap a button to change the channel to something more favorable to the listener… THAT is something that they should have had a LONG time ago.

    As the one person noted – there is a fee and that is why companies cannot use radio on their hold systems, without some sort of contract. A company I worked for in the ’80s wanted to do that… until they found out the cost. Things they did not consider: the music & DJ voice being potentially offensive and what about competitor commercials being directed at your customer who is on hold.
    =========
    It is CLEAR that Eric’s proposal is to listen to his OWN music during this time and have some sort of auto-switching…

    I do like your idea though… the only “hard part” seems to be the recognition between MUZAK and a person’s voice and making the switch fast enough that they don’t think you have hung up… someone working in voice-recognition software ought to be able to do that.

    off this topic… but,
    Just thought I would ask… what kind of plant is that in your banner?

    Why not add an “alt” with the description…?

    • #16
    • Comment
    • Sat 27 Jan 2007
    • 1130
    John Burns wrote in to say...

    Having just read Nathanael’s comment…

    For instances like this – another potentially marketable idea…

    Press a button and record the basic details of the initial contact where you give the basics… then press one button to replay that information each time you are switched to someone new…

    • #17
    • Comment
    • Tue 30 Jan 2007
    • 0652
    Chris wrote in to say...

    This is a great idea, and I truly believe that it WILL happen, but while its being developed, why don’t we just create a new standard for on hold music?

    Why dont we just start saying, “boy your on hold music SUCKS” every time we hear crap?

    I dont know where people ever got the idea that crappy, poorly produced midi tracks were of universal appeal…

    • #18
    • Comment
    • Mon 12 Feb 2007
    • 1108
    Garrett Todd wrote in to say...

    I like your creativity, however, I am a little doubtful if a market exists.

    Do I understand correctly that you’d like to PURCHASE a phone system that allows you to customize your hold music while you wait (thru the iPOD device) meanwhile muting the other company’s hold music?

    My concern would be, why would people buy this device? Just so they don’t have to listen to the company’s music on hold?

    I mean how many people truly HATE the on hold music enough to buy a new piece of equipment? I think this would be a very small group and therefore difficult to profit from.

    Eric, perhaps the company you called just has awful on hold productions! Call them and refer them to me, and we’ll take care of them (and as such you!) *WINK* *WINK*

    Regards,

    Garrett Todd

    • #19
    • Pingback
    • Wed 18 Jul 2007
    • 2330
    Received from J A M B U Z Z!!! For the coolest music and mp3 news around » Blog Archive » iPhone - Don’t need the phone and iPod dock now…

    […] blogged which we find unique and different. That can be said of this comment we found over at MeyerWeb.com . Now this post was made back in January, before all the hoopla about the iPhone, so I’m […]

    • #20
    • Comment
    • Sun 30 Dec 2007
    • 1728
    tony wrote in to say...

    This is kind of off subject but I was wondering if there is a program that I could install on my cell phone that would allow me to put someone on hold and in turn they would actually here music that i choose playing while they are on hold?

    • #21
    • Comment
    • Tue 17 Jun 2008
    • 1000
    MA wrote in to say...

    This is a great idea and absolutely needed. We must end the pain and suffering of horrible hold music.

    • #22
    • Comment
    • Tue 23 Mar 2010
    • 1137
    Marc Lyman wrote in to say...

    Hi Eric! Interesting idea. I have to respectfully disagree with the people saying there are licensing issues with your suggestion, assuming I understand your idea correctly. My caveat here is that I’m not a lawyer. With that said, if you’re just patching in your ipod to yourself while holding, I have a hard time imagining Ascap, BMI or any other performance rights organization coming after you (or even having a case). The licensing that those organizations enforce stem from the fact that music on hold is considered a public performance. I can’t see listening to your ipod through your phone handset as a public performance since only you would be listening to the content (which you presumably obtained legally). As a music on hold provider, it does pain me that you’ve had such bad on-hold experiences that you ever were inspired to invent such a device! : ( Just know that there are some companies out there working very hard to replace horrible on-hold content with music on hold that sounds great (and doesn’t annoy 99% of callers)!

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