Muzak: The History of Elevator Music
Have you ever been in a lift and noticed music playing? If you haven’t, then that’s the point! Elevator music, more commonly known as Muzak, the sound that surrounds us in shopping centres, waiting rooms, when we’re left on hold and, of course, lifts, but mostly, it blends into the background. Its unobtrusive tones fill an awkward silence, yet it still seems to remain almost unnoticeable until we actually listen out for it.
If you have heard it, you may be wondering, why is it playing? Why have we all heard it but could never actually sing it back or name the artist? What is the story behind Muzak? In this blog, we’ll answer all of these pressing questions and more, giving you a brief history of elevator music and how it came to be.
1920s: Calming melodies
The dulcet tones of elevator music first came onto the scene in 1922 and were initially introduced to ease the minds of wary passengers, who weren’t so sure of what was a futuristic new invention at the time.
Lift music is known as Muzak because its main distributor was Muzak Holdings LLC, a company from South California that wanted to supply music to the masses without the use of radio waves. Radio was still relatively new at the time, and was difficult and expensive to manage. Muzak offered up the perfect, easy-listening solution that could be transmitted along electrical wires.
1940s: The power of Muzak
In the 1940s, scientific research into the physiological influence that music had on music behaviour prompted Muzak to take on a more proactive purpose. The company introduced the Stimulus Progression – 15 minute stretches of background music designed to boost the productivity of workers in factories and other workplaces.
Although the science behind these subliminal stimulating sounds was rather dubious, Muzak Holdings monopolised on the concept and the soothing tones of Muzak soon became the soundtrack to many peoples’ working lives.
1960s: Inescapable Muzak
In the 1960s, Muzak became almost inescapable. The company had done so well marketing the ‘science’ behind their product, even encouraging shopping centres and other retail premises that by playing some Muzak, their customers would spend more. It was used on planes, in airports, in train stations and on buses – it was even bumbling along in the background of the Apollo 11 launch, in the hope of calming the astronauts down.
1990s: The fall of Muzak
Despite its popularity in the 60s, Muzak soon gained a reputation for being bland, boring and even annoying. By the 80s and 90s, companies wanted to curate their own playlists that represented them better, not just the same old kitschy covers. As a result, Muzak Holdings went bust in 2009, only to be saved the following year by Mood Media, who rebranded and made Muzak a thing of the past. Yet, it’s not uncommon to still hear charming, if not slightly irritating, Muzak-sounding tunes – perhaps now just played to put a smile on our faces and remind us of what once was.
At Euro Lifts, we design, supply and install quality lift technology to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you need a large passenger lift for your hotel business or a simple goods lift for your warehouse, we’re the company to call. Get in touch with us today and we promise we won’t leave you on hold listening to Muzak for too long!