• 11.18.13

Boston Is Crowdsourcing Local Tunes For City Hall’s Hold Music

Down with muzak. The city’s government is promoting homespun talent and engaging with citizens all in one swoop.

Boston Is Crowdsourcing Local Tunes For City Hall’s Hold Music
[Image via Shutterstock]

Waiting on hold is painful enough without being subjected to mind-numbing Muzak. What if you could actually listen to something decent instead? When the City of Boston got a new phone system and realized that there was the option to replace canned songs with the music of their choice, they decided to use it as a platform to promote local talent.


Through December 2, at the hashtag #BOStunes, the city is taking suggestions for a “transfer music playlist” that would feature local musicians. You can add your suggestions through the Department of Innovation and Technology’s
Twitter and Facebook pages.

Here’s the city’s current hold music:

Ironically, citizens calling the city’s hotline might not be stuck on hold long enough to hear that much of the music. “It’s been our philosophy at City Hall to make sure you can always reach a real person,” says Lindsay Crudele, who directs social media for the City of Boston and is the brains behind the playlist. “We have a 24-hour call center, so people aren’t getting dropped into voicemail.” The music, she says, will just come up when someone’s being transferred to another department.

The project is intended to give props to the local music community and entertain callers, but it also has a deeper purpose–to get Bostonians using city services so they’re more prepared in case of disasters. All the city’s social media, Crudele explains, is designed to engage as many people as possible. “It all really positions us so that we don’t have to onboard people during an emergency,” she says. “We don’t need to educate the public about how to subscribe to our social media feeds in the midst of the emergency, because at that point it’s too late.”


The playlist is one in a long line of crowdsourced city projects, from a citizen pothole-spotting campaign (appropriately named #Spotholes) last spring– resulting in the city manically filling 2,000 potholes over two weeks– to a crowdfunding campaign on Twitter following the Boston Marathon attacks, which raised $5 million in small donations over seven hours. Though the local hold music will be on a smaller scale, Crudele says she’s already had so many responses that she’s considering rolling out different playlists in installments.

“We have a lot of listening ahead of us,” Crudele says, “Which is great.”

You can check out some of the entries in the SoundCloud clips above.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.