The longer customers hang on the line, the better business gets for Bits of Hits, a new service allowing callers to sample music by phone. The New Rochelle, N.Y., company uses interactive voice technology to offer 30-second sound bites of every song on CD or tape, ranging from Pavarotti to Vanilla Ice. President Jerome Gilels says the service, which is free to local callers, snares a captive audience for advertisers (who pay 10¢ for every commercial delivered) and yields a marketable direct-mail database in return. The company, which also garners revenues from record sales, hopes to roll out the service in New York City, Chicago, and L.A. this year.

-- Anne Murphy