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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 40.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Madison seeks MOH-better Muzak

The city of Madison, bowing to behind-the-scenes prodding from the guy who writes Isthmus' popular "Watchdog" column, is moving forward with a plan to drop the hideous, heinous, god-awful hold music on the city's phone system.

"Legions of callers have complained about the music," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz recently acknowledged, referring to the grating, pseudo-jazz Muzakal offering the city has been inflicting on callers for about a year. "Nothing can be done."

Informed that where there's a will there's a way, Cieslewicz not only had a change of heart but got the bright idea of playing songs by local musicians. He assigned his executive assistant, Connie Phair, to look into it.

"I think it's a great idea," says Phair, no relation to Liz. "I'm excited about getting some local music up."

The city's IT staff told Phair it was technologically a breeze: "All I'd have to do is give them a disc." But they raised a concern about copyright laws, with good reason.

"Once you put on songs as hold music, you're a broadcaster," says Phair, explaining the industry term for this is music on hold, or MOH. Broadcasters of MOH must pay fees to licensing entities like BMI or ASCAP, or else secure permissions from the artists and "mechanical" copyright owners - a.k.a., record companies.

Phair has learned that the city already pays a flat annual fee to these music licensing groups, which may cover the MOH music. She's also been assured by her "music go-to guy," Jonathan Suttin of Triple M radio in Madison, that local musicians would likely be willing to "donate" songs for this use. She plans to ask the mayor for his list of favorite local songs.

If it were up to her (and why shouldn't it be?), Phair would include the five official city songs selected two years ago as part of Madison's sesquicentennial. She might also want to consider the wrongly rejected entry, "Madison the Beautiful," from a duo known as The Isthmoids. To hear that wondrous ditty and the city's current wretched offering, see this column at

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Related Files:

City of Madison Hold Music.mp3

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