Why Is Hold Music So Bad? (5 Reasons Why)

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Freya Crawford

Freya Crawford is a self-confessed geek. She loves gaming, watching classic movies, and her guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV. She also enjoys collecting old NES and Gameboy games.

Nobody likes waiting on hold while making a phone call, but it is an inevitable part of life at times. What makes it worse, however, is the terrible music companies often play.

If you are wondering why this music is so bad, you are not alone. Keep reading to learn more about the unique badness of hold music and the explanation behind it.

Why Is Hold Music So Bad?

1. Phone Audio Is Not Designed For Music

It may seem obvious to say, but phones were designed to transmit human voices. Because of this, their audio systems are perfectly calibrated for voices, but not music.

When music is played on a telephone, the audio quality has to be reduced a lot in order for it to be received by the other caller. Because of this, it often sounds very scratchy or unclear.

Human voices occur at a different frequency than music, and this is the frequency that phones are best designed to handle.

There is also not much noise cancellation on most phones, and this results in hold music sounding extremely scratchy or distorted because the phones cannot process their complexity.

Beyond this, every phone’s frequency accommodation is different, so the quality can vary depending on your phone. However, even modern smartphones struggle to process music.

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2. The Music Repeats Too Much

Hold music often follows a loop track, cycling again and again as you wait on hold. Usually this cycle is not very long as companies pay less for shorter hold tracks.

As you listen, you are hearing the same tune repeatedly for however long you are on hold. Although this is bearable at first, it can quickly become very annoying.

It makes sense that a song you hear again and again would start to drive you a little crazy, especially when the audio quality is already bad to begin with.

3. It Is A Psychological Thing

It Is A Psychological Thing

Hold music is not usually pleasant to listen to, and this experience of unpleasantness grows worse when you are in a situation that is not fun to begin with.

People frequently have to wait on hold for the following reasons:

  • Customer services (for retail, airlines, etc.)
  • Financial services
  • Medical appointments
  • Insurance or similar concerns

None of these are fun things to deal with, and they can be very frustrating when you have an urgent matter to attend to and get put on a hold line.

Your frustration with the wait you must undergo can easily turn into anger and distaste with the hold music.

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Music that would just be slightly irritating when you are on a two-minute hold can turn into an inducer of rage when you have to sit there listening to it for hours or more.

4. The Bad Music Is The Cheapest

It would be nice to listen to top hits that you recognize or musically complex and interesting tracks. However, these are very expensive to purchase.

Companies must buy hold music tracks or risk violating licensing agreements. Pre-composed hold music exists to make it easy for companies to buy something that is cheap and safe.

If a company does try to get a hit tune, they will either have to pay a lot or settle for a really bad cover. Even if they do get a good song, it is not going to sound good anyway.

With this logic in mind, many companies choose to opt for the less exciting and bland hold music rather than face copyright infringement or a big expense.

5. They Want You To Hang Up

This last reason is a little more difficult to prove, but if you are calling a company to fight over a refund or make a complaint about something they may want you to hang up.

A long hold time and bad hold music while you wait are just two strategies that could have you putting your phone down and giving up.

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However, this logic does not hold up as much for situations when you are going to pay money, such as making an appointment or taking out an insurance policy.

Despite this, it is an interesting theory and worth considering.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why country music is so bad, why Christian music is so bad, and why jazz is so unpopular.


There is nothing fun about being on hold, and the awful music that companies play only makes the experience worse.

Hold music sounds bad for plenty of technical and sound design reasons, but also for psychological reasons as well. All of these factors combine to make the uniquely bad experience that is hold music.


  • Freya Crawford

    Freya Crawford is a self-confessed geek. She loves gaming, watching classic movies, and her guilty pleasure is trashy reality TV. She also enjoys collecting old NES and Gameboy games.

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