‘Beige music’ on hold

Frankie Adkins, writing for Wired magazine, examines the endemic unpleasantness of music played to callers waiting on hold for customer service. For this music to “remain relegated to the background with the simple objective of trying not to drive us nuts . . . is not so simple,” Adkins notes.

Music on hold should be inobtrusive, inoffensive and “in sync with brand or business standards,” says Danny Turner, in charge of creative programming at Mood Media, a background-music provider. “Brands use beige music because it passes the time more than silence but in theory we pay less attention to it.”

That’s the theory. The fact is, we can’t help but pay attention to it because it almost always sounds awful.

The cause, it seems, is compression. This engineering intervention, which reduces the dynamic range of recordings, is employed to prevent “massive audio level fluctuations,” Turner says. However, “[o]verly compressed files can have unpleasant playback, reducing even the silkiest of tones to those of an underwater robot,” Adkins observes.

He doesn’t address the “we interrupt this beige music by an underwater robot to tell you how important your call is to us , and please go to our website instead of making this important call – and while we’ve got you on the line, did you know we can make you a New You?!!” issue:

http://www.wired.com/story/hold-music-behavior/

(via http://www.artsjournal.com)