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Music on hold
Music on hold (MOH) refers to the business practice of playing recorded music to fill the silence that would be heard by telephone callers who have been placed on hold. It is especially common in situations involving customer service.

Music on hold is sometimes referred to as phone on hold, message on hold, on hold messaging, etc.

Equipment and formats

Most MOH systems are integrated into a telephone system designed for businesses via an audio jack on the telephone equipment labeled "MOH". There are also some units with "analog" capability that allow music on hold for small and home based companies without a phone system.

The source of the music is usually from CDs or digital files such as MP3, but some older systems may still use cassette tapes (sometimes employing endless-loops), or reel-to-reel tape players.

Newer technology allows MP3 files to be downloaded automatically from the internet so that messages (or interesting content in the form of news and weather, amongst many) can be changed daily. The new "Online On Hold" technology makes the older technology redundant since it requires no additional hardware.

The newest units as of 2009 allow productions to be downloaded and played through a USB thumb drive. This allows for larger files and higher quality formats.

Source of music
The musical source may be as simple as playing a local radio station through the MOH jack. This is unlawful without the express permission of the music title and mechanical copyright holders.
Although radio stations may provide the desired musical format, there is no control over the specific songs that are played, some of which may be offensive to the callers, or depending on the music played, sound harsh in monaural sound. This kind of system is also vulnerable to interference.
Radio stations typically do not license their music for MOH systems. In the United States, the radio broadcaster has no legal right to provide such a license as they, themselves, obtain a usage license from the music title owner for the right to broadcast said music for limited and personal use. As mentioned below, re-broadcasting of a radio program over a phone system may likely cause licensing and copyright problems for the owner of the MOH system.
Radio stations will play commercials, which may be offensive or at least annoying to the caller. Furthermore, it is possible that a competitor's commercial may be played, which would be counter-productive.

Music on hold (copyright).
Owners of radio stations usually play their radio as music on hold; the main program if there are several. Examples include RÚV from Iceland using Rás 1 as the on-hold music.

Off-the-shelf commercial CDs
Commercial CDs eliminate the problems encountered with radio commercials, and they offer control over the selection of music; they do not, however, grant proper license for MOH use unless users first obtain permission from the song title copyright owner (when the song is not in the "public domain") and the mechanical copyright owner. (See RADIO, above, for more details.)

Stock MOH CDs (with or without voice-overs)
CDs are available that have been specifically recorded and licensed for MOH systems. These may contain only music, or may include periodic voice-overs with messages such as "Your call is important" or "Please stay on the line". Such off-the-shelf recordings may be generic or may be specific to individual industries, but will not be customized for individual companies.

Custom-designed MOH
In general, custom music on hold is advised to:
Control content
Control music genre
Use the on hold time to sell to a captive audience
Through a reputable on hold company be fully licensed and legal for on hold playback
Reduce hang-ups and make the business look more professional
CDs (or other MOH formats, such as MP3 files) can be custom-created to suit the particular needs of a business. The announcements can be scripted to emphasize particular attributes of the business such as location, store hours, or special promotions or services. These are typically used for up-selling and cross-selling callers.

Online On Hold

A program loaded onto an existing computer and connected to the phone system can allow automatic content updates interspersed with company information.

Styles of music
The style of music played by MOH systems depends largely on the type of business offering the service. It is generally best to present music that will not be offensive to the audience, but that would also be of particular interest to the typical caller. For example, Express for Men usually plays Alternative rock. A western apparel store may choose to play country music. A Christian book store may choose to play popular Christian music. A university may choose to play classical music. Light classics, smooth jazz, and beautiful music are common choices, as is fully synthesized melodic music
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