Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Hold Please – and Enjoy the Mozart
Monday, September 23, 2013 - 04:00 PM
Anyone who has called New York City's 311 hotline and has been put on hold may have noticed the perky music on the line: Mozart’s Flute Concerto Number 1 in G Major. It has been the hold music since the City introduced the system in March 2003.
It turns out that New Yorkers are not alone. A report published on Monday found that England’s local governments play Mozart more than any other composer when putting residents on hold. Some 150 of England's councils – local governments – responded to a freedom of information request from the Press Association and revealed that Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik are the top favorites for on-hold music. Selections by Debussy, Handel and Strauss are also popular.
Like the 311 system, England's councils allow residents call in and request pothole repairs, hear about street closings or lodge complaints about noisy neighbors. No official reason for the musical choice was given, though it’s worth noting that the Austrian composer's work is out of copyright and therefore free to play.
From a psychological point of view, perhaps officials believe the best option is something popular, with an upbeat tempo to make the time seem shorter. New York City officials report that 96 percent of all calls are answered in 30 seconds or less – a claim born out in several calls on Monday. Callers had better get their Mozart fix quickly.