• Jingles cost taxpayers £6.5 million over a three-and-a-half-year period
  • Councils shelled out £300,000 on hold music since January 2010
  • 120 out of 150 councils responded to a Freedom of Information request

By
Daily Mail Reporter

08:48 GMT, 23 September 2013


|

07:54 GMT, 24 September 2013

Ever been irritated by the music your council plays when you are put on hold waiting to speak to one of its officials?

Prepare to be more irritated still – you may be paying for the music through your council tax.

Some local authorities are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for the right to use pop tunes as ‘hold music’.

Classic: Tunes by Swedish pop group ABBA were among most played by council phone lines to callers left on hold

Classic: Tunes by Swedish pop group ABBA were among most played by council phone lines to callers left on hold

They have found that artists such as
Fleetwood Mac, Lionel Richie or the Lighthouse Family are more likely to
keep callers on the line, while classical music encourages more to hang
up.

Classical music is much cheaper to use as royalties do not have to be paid to long-dead composers.

Freedom of Information requests to 120 town halls revealed that the bill
for contemporary hold tunes runs to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Twelve of the authorities that use pop music spent £300,000 over the
past three years.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers will be appalled that councils are wasting their hard-earned money to pay for hold music when there are plenty of free options available.

‘People expect their cash to be spent on essential frontline services, not on this kind of frivolity. Local authorities would do better to ensure that calls get answered rather than wondering how to entertain the residents they leave hanging on the telephone.

‘As for the wider issue of the cost of music licences, the rules need to be reviewed as it’s deeply unfair that employers, both in the public and private sector, have to pay huge sums of money just for staff to tune into the radio.’

High price: Councils have spent tens of thousands of pounds on royalty fees for music from artists, such as Christina Perri, pictured, to be played on phone lines to callers on hold

High price: Councils have spent tens of thousands of pounds on royalty fees for music from artists, such as Christina Perri, pictured, to be played on phone lines to callers on hold

Doncaster Council – which was one of the
120 authorities to respond to the request for information – admitted
spending about £1,000
a year on hold music, where customers were greeted with ditties by
American popstar Christina Perri and swinger Michael Buble’s I Just
Haven’t Met You Yet.

Mayor
Ros Jones said: ‘We have only just started using more varied and
up-to-date music for customers to listen to when on hold or waiting for a
response on the phone.

‘This
has been done to respond to feedback from customers. We regularly use
feedback to improve the experience of our customers while ensuring a
value-for-money approach.’

Most
authorities either use a royalty-free track built into their telephone
service or simply leave their customers waiting in silence.

Tragedy: While councils across the country face spending cuts, many still found money to spend on pop music, from bands including the Bee Gees, to pipe down phone lines

Tragedy: While councils across the country face spending cuts, many still found money to spend on pop music, from bands including the Bee Gees, to pipe down phone lines

Among
them Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss,
and various pieces by Mozart were played down the telephone to users.

Councils
in Haringey, Hertfordshire and Sunderland also used royalty-free
original pieces by playing music from local children and musicians.

Councils' favourite: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music is chosen by the majority of local authorities as an on hold telephone tune

Councils’ favourite: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music is chosen by the majority of local authorities as an on hold telephone tune

Royalty-free
pieces by classical composers were also popular with councils – with
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the most frequently heard artist.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has also been heralded as the king of council hold music, a survey found.

The Austrian composer’s work was favoured as a means of keeping callers on the line by the majority of 150 councils questioned, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Some local authorities discovered more modern easy-listening chart songs – such as Abba and Billy Ocean – dramatically reduced the number of people hanging up.

The findings came as no surprise to Mozart expert professor Colin Lawson, director of the Royal College of Music.

He
said: ‘I think the real reason is Mozart can be listened to at so many
different levels. He is at the top of the classical charts regularly.

‘The Mozart phenomenon is an extraordinary thing.

‘You
can have Mozart-themed chocolate, ski holidays, tours – he seems to
have a particular resonance for the troubled 21st century.’

Selections
from Debussy, Handel and Strauss featured in the data, provided by
around 120 of the authorities contacted under FoI laws by the Press
Association.

But it was
Mozart – and his Symphony No 40 and his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik pieces –
which were deemed most suitable by council bosses.

The fact that the work is out of copyright, and therefore does not command a fee, may have something to do with the selection.

TOP OF THE POPS: TUNES LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL USES TO KEEP CALLERS ENTERTAINED

Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac
Penny Lover – Lionel Richie
Easy – Lionel Richie
Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
Stars – Simply Red
High – Lighthouse Family
Ocean Drive – Lighthouse Family
One Of Us – Abba
The Winner Takes It All – Abba
I Say A Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin
Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones
Say What You Want – Texas
I’ll Stand By You – Pretenders
Suddenly – Billy Ocean
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
Waiting For A Star To Fall – Boy Meets Girl
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Nine Million Bicycles – Katie Melua

But Prof Lawson there were other reasons the popular composer was hand-picked over his contemporaries.

‘Symphony No 40 has got a certain passion to it,’ he said.

‘There is a lot to it and a lot of angst.

‘But it is not the whole piece that people recognise, or that it is famous for. It is just the introduction.

‘It is very popular with ringtones, another way younger people are able to enjoy his music.’

Chart-toppers such as the Lighthouse
Family, Abba and Billy Ocean have been credited with improving customer
satisfaction levels at a local authority – after bosses decided to swap
hold music for taxpayer-funded pop tunes.

Lincolnshire County Council said the
number of people who hang up while on hold has more than halved since
piping commercial tracks down the telephone to those in the queue.

While most councils opt for
rights-free jingles, classical music or just silence, taxpayers in
Lincolnshire have had tracks by the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Katie Melua
and Simply Red unleashed upon them.

Lincolnshire
is one of a handful of authorities to have ditched traditional hold
music in favour of easy-listening chart songs, which require royalty
payments to the Performing Rights Society (PRS).

Councillor
Richard Davies, executive member for highways at Lincolnshire County
Council, said: ‘People can be kept waiting for a few minutes at peak
times so we use commercial songs for our on-hold music. Quite frankly,
our callers love it.

‘It costs just £175 per year and since we introduced it, we have reduced our abandoned call rate by half – from 4,000 calls per month to just 1,600.

‘I would, however, like to take this opportunity to apologise for our use of the Lighthouse Family’s Ocean Drive. I accept this was a deplorable lapse in judgement and we deserve all the criticism we get.

‘In our defence, it was either that or M People’s Moving On Up.’

Stockport
Metropolitan Borough Council pays just over £2,000 annually for playing
all sorts of music, with its telephone system using tracks including
Tom Jones’ She’s A Lady, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and Tiny Dancer by
Elton John.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Rob,

Sattahip Thailand,

2 hours ago

Money Money Money from Abba very apt for the poor fools who are paying for these monsters in power.

Lynngo,

london, United Kingdom,

2 hours ago

How about employing more people to answer the phone. Save us a fortune.

letshaveitright,

manchester, United Kingdom,

4 hours ago

it’s only taxpayers’ money, why not waste it on what we want when we want, no one can bring the council to book, they are an authoritarian regime that is beyond reach and so can spend like a gormless lottery winner on any whim that takes their fancy. I would like to know who gets these contracts and who at the council signs them off

UKIP Voter,

Plymouth EUSSR, United Kingdom,

6 hours ago

Should be changed to no cost now and councils fined if they dont switch.- ken, bristol, 23/9/2013 12:18———–It’s all very well fining councils Ken, but who do you think would be paying the fine, that’s right, the long suffering council tax payer.

Freddy.Johnson,

Pennan Aberdeenshire,

6 hours ago

Am I on the same planet here folks? Why doesn’t some musician compose a tune and the government buy the rights and then give it to all government departments and councils to play? ….Hello!

sheila,

melbourne, Australia,

7 hours ago

It defies description ,how much more of the publics money can these fools waste!,and their taste in music is abysmal!

DrMallard,

West Palm Beach FL USA,

12 hours ago

Watch for huge increases in traffic, parking and bin fines, and relentless enforcement. After all, someone’s got to pay the bill for all this tomfoolery, and guess who gets the nod. Jobsworths…oy…

Vimto88,

London, United Kingdom,

12 hours ago

How much us offset against premium call numbers ? Changing us more by engaging in more popular music so we don’t hang up ????

ldg,

Nottingham, United Kingdom,

14 hours ago

if I got Abba I’d hang up pronto!!

– salads64, Somewhere North Of Watford Gap, 23/9/2013 12:41——————-That’s what they want you to do!

Adie,

Cambridge, United Kingdom,

14 hours ago

«a huge immoral scab on what should be entertainment» – Cromwell, London. So do you think your entertainment should come for free? If composers and musicians don’t get paid for their work they’ll simply find other jobs, and who will be the poorer then?

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