Monday, 23 February 2015


The notion of treating customers put on hold to a cord or two of background music while on hold came about quite by accident, instead of being invented by some clever marketer or instrumental-musician, although it did take one to exploit all possible formats and venues (the waiting room, the elevator, restaurants). Musak, in the wilds and not contained just with a telephone receiver, is composed with a subtle technique called stimulus progression, meant to make waiting-times seem to pass by faster or make workers within earshot more productive and focused. In 1962, the metal girders of a factory’s reception offices turned the entire structure into an antenna that picked up the broadcast from a neighbouring radio station and piped in the sounds when the circuit was flipped and callers were placed on hold. Instead of being irritated with this glitch, both the factory owner and patient callers found it rather novel and pleasant.