This story is about a piece of music you’ve already heard, although you may not have realized at the time. It’s that song that has you tapping your feet while you’re on hold with customer service, or humming along to the piano riff halfway through.
The song is called Opus No. 1, by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel. It’s never been on a Top 40 list or gotten radio play, and yet it’s heard around the world by the millions of people who are placed on hold each day.
Darrick and Tim’s story actually begins back in 1989, when as teenagers and friends they recorded a song in their garage. Unfortunately, they didn’t go on to rockstar fame and fortune, but years later Darrick would go on to take a job with Cisco. In his role building Cisco’s first version of IP phones, he was aware of Cisco’s need for a piece of music to use as the default hold music for the new system. Cut to several years later, and their high school composition has become the hold music for the world’s most popular phone systems with over 65 million IP phones sold. With that, Opus No. 1 has left the safety of Darrick and Tim’s childhood recording studio and entered earworm status.
Now Darrick and Tim’s story has gone viral, with their famed hold music being heard everywhere from an episode of NPR’s This American Life, to articles in The Atlantic, to NBC and Network World. You can hear more about Darrick’s rise to hold music stardom from him here:
Sound familiar? Darrick says that he chose the music because of its specific auditory qualities, and he seems to have his pulse on what people like to listen to; A quick search on Youtube and you’ll find thousands of comments from people who call into the hold music or put in on loop simply because they find it soothing and comforting.
And what’s next? Potentially a book and movie deal in the works? To Darrick, he’s happy as long as people keep calling in and being placed on hold.