Can you hold for a minute? State replaces default music with songs by Alaska artists

The State of Alaska is changing its hold music after a three-year collaborative effort.

If the state worker on the other end of the line can’t take your call quite yet, pretty soon, you might hear “Feel it Still,” the hit song from Portugal. The Man, a band originally from Wasilla.

Or, you might listen to the Native Jazz Quartet, which contributed a track in Tlingit.

Five songs by Alaska artists will now cycle through the state’s hold music, thanks to a new effort called the Alaska Music On Hold Project. Whiskey Class will be featured, as well as the bands Harm and Feeding Frenzy.

“I really just wanted to showcase the real diverse up-and-coming talent that we have here in Alaska,” said Annie Bartholomew, who was the curator for the hold music project.

She works for Juneau network station KTOO, which contributed creative and technical support.

“There were so many great artists that I wanted to feature as part of this,” Bartholomew said. “We were limited by the amount of time, by the amount of funding we could give the artists, and then as the licensing worked out, we could only work with certain artists and how they had registered their work.”

The idea for the project came three years ago, when state Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins got sick of listening to the same song again and again when he was on hold with the state. He decided it was time for change, describing the old music as the audio equivalent of plastic.

It was important to look to Alaskans when choosing new music, Kreiss-Tomkins said.

“I mean I feel like one’s government should reflect the people and the culture of the place,” he said. “In big ways and small ways, it always makes sense to try to make that happen.”

Three years later, with help from the Department of Administration, GCI, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, it’s becoming a reality.

Ideas like this have come up before. The Juneau Arts Council launched a similar effort around 10 years ago, but it didn’t take off.

Kreiss-Tomkins said GCI pitched in $1,000 for the project, and the rest was funded through the regular resources of the different partners involved.

Bartholomew said this is just the first iteration of the project. There are hopes it will continue, and include music from more Alaska artists in the future.

As for the old music, according to the state’s Office of Information Technology, it’s default, unlicensed music that came with the phone system.