Middle-of-the-road pop songs by Simply Red and the Lighthouse Family are the most effective aural accompaniment to keep people hanging on the telephone, a local authority has discovered.
Lincolnshire County Council said the number of people who hang up while on hold has more than halved since it replaced traditional "hold music" with commercial tracks.
Vintage "beige-pop" hits by Lighthouse Family, Simply Red, Katie Melua and Billy Ocean are among the tracks credited with improving customer satisfaction levels at the local authority.
The number of people who hang up while on hold has more than halved since Lincolnshire became one of a handful to have ditched classical "hold" music, jingles and recorded messages 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."
However Mr Davies recognised the wide damage that inflicting 90s pop-soul duo The Lighthouse Family on taxpayers may have caused. He said: "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'."
A Freedom of Information Act request by the Press Association to 150 authorities found that 120 paid nearly £6.5 million between them to the PRS for background music during a three-and-a-half-year period.
This covered playing music in council buildings such as schools and children's homes, as well as concert venues. More than a dozen authorities have also paid royalties for their hold music, costing up to £300,000 between them since January 2010.
Royalty-free pieces by classical composers were popular with councils, with Mozart the most frequently-heard artist.
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council pays just over £2,000 annually for 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.
Doncaster Council spends about £1,000 a year on hold music, where customers are greeted with ditties by American pop star Christina Perri and swinger Michael Buble's "I Just Haven't Met You Yet".
Most authorities either use a royalty-free track built into their telephone service or simply leave their customers waiting in silence.
Mozart’s works ARE music to councils’ ears
Mozart has also been heralded as the king of hold music for councils. A survey of around 120 councils showed more authorities selected the Austrian composer’s work over any other musician’s to keep taxpayers hanging on the telephone.
Selections from Debussy, Handel and Strauss also featured. Mozart’s Symphony No 40 and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” were deemed the 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.Reuse content