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One Way To Name That Tune ...

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northie

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I feel I should start this post Once upon a time there was a world with virtually no internet....

 

Anyway, back in 1992 the UK Arts Council declared my local city to be 'UK city of music' for the year. This was the signal for an amazing year of musical performances, experiments and experiences. My workplace decided to re-package one part of our operation and offer it as a standalone service. And so the Humline was born.

 

Heard a piece of music somewhere and want to know what it is? Nowadays your options are almost endless; back then, you could ask your mates / colleagues / family, perhaps bother the BBC or visit your local library. Our idea was simple: set up a dedicated phoneline, record the calls (using the sophisticated equipment pictured...) and answer the questions in our own time. It was never intended to be anything other than a bit of quirky repackaging ...

 

The perfectly ordinary press release appeared in a pre-election period when the press were looking for something, anything, to relieve the tedium. First regional, then national print and radio media got hold of the story and then it went viral (1992 style) internationally. The Humline pretty much took over our work time (and quite a lot of time outside of work as well); we listened to the calls, logged them, answered them (or not) and phoned the enquirers back. The Humline lived up to its name: people from all over sang, whistled and hummed their enquiries (how else could they ask about unknown music?) with varying degrees of success. Some were quite good, others, you knew after a few seconds we didn't stand a chance.

 

Often, the music did come with some context: 'the latest advert for x' 'heard it on Morse a couple of episodes back' 'heard it on Radio 1/2/3 sometime yesterday'. No playlists or anything else really usefully up to date. This meant that watching TV or listening to the radio suddenly became an extension of work - I remember watching Inspector Morse and both trying to keep up with the murders and the incidental music (oh, and the adverts as well ...)! ;) People being people, context had to be treated with care: you probably know how 'yesterday' can turn into 'last week' ... :rolleyes: We reckoned on answering 6 out every 10 without too much bother, another 2 needed rather more work and the final 2 defeated us. Not bad, I think!

 

We had quite a lot of callers from Germany and Austria, mostly because (we thought) Lufthansa made a film about the Humline which it showed on its European shorthaul flights (why?). While details of individual calls have virtually all long gone, one has stayed with me: one day we came in to find a recording of yodelling - not the pretend, 'I'm pulling your leg' sort but proper, full-on yodelling. Err ... :unsure: and Next...

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I found customer support on the phone difficult enough when dealing with verbal or physical matters. You and your colleagues are heroes :-)

My older son was demanding a song the other day, it took several days and people to find out what is was. I would have been grateful to a service like this.

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This entry is utterly fascinating. So, how long exactly did this go on...? Quite a little subsidy your firm was running for the nation (and Lufthansa flyers) :)

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I found customer support on the phone difficult enough when dealing with verbal or physical matters. You and your colleagues are heroes :-)

My older son was demanding a song the other day, it took several days and people to find out what is was. I would have been grateful to a service like this.

 

Trying to deal with those sort of enquiries 'live' wasn't much fun for either party - inevitably the person who answered the phone wasn't the one who was best placed to answer and the poor enquirer didn't want to repeat their 'hum' umpteen times. So, the answering machine.

 

It's the sort of enquiry we hardly ever get asked now - the internet or social media have taken over.

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This entry is utterly fascinating. So, how long exactly did this go on...? Quite a little subsidy your firm was running for the nation (and Lufthansa flyers) :)

 

Just for the year. By the end it had the sort of brand recognition that PR or product merchandisers would kill for... However, it was very disruptive and I think our management were pretty glad when normal service could be resumed. ;) We weren't a commercial operation so, although there were thoughts of spinning it off as a 'paid for' service, nothing came of it.

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