Montana Singers Provide “Hold” Music for State Government

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Blackfeet singer-songwriter Jack Gladstone is one of five Montana artists whose music is played when callers are put on hold when calling a state government office.

Montana’s state phone system used to use canned music, but Gov. Brian Schweitzer decided to change that a few years ago.

“I was listening to this elevator music and I thought, ‘We can do better than that,’ ” he said.

Schweitzer asked Sheryl Olson, deputy director of the Department of Administration, if the system could lose the canned music.

Vince Crewey, a state phone technician who also plays some music himself, got an MP3 player and took musical requests.

Schweitzer suggested Gladstone. The governor had become a fan after Gladstone played an early fundraiser for Schweitzer and gave him some of his CDs as road music for the campaign. Others also had suggestions.

Now callers placed on hold might hear Gladstone’s music, songs by Crewey, Helena acoustic guitarist Darrell Casey, a Livingston group called Open Range and a Helena bluegrass group Bill Junior & the Montana Rangers.

“Now, when I get put on hold — and absolutely, I get put on hold — I whistle,” Schweitzer said. “I whistle along.”

Olson said the state contacted the artists for permission to use their music, but they aren’t getting paid. The state did pay $280 for a licensing agreement with BMI to use any of its copyrighted material.

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