Muzak is an American brand of background music played in retail stores and other public establishments. The name has been in use since 1934, and has been owned by a division or subsidiary of one or another company ever since
Inventor Major General George Owen Squier, credited with inventing telephone carrier multiplexing in 1910, developed the original technical basis for Muzak. He was granted several US patents in the 1920s related to transmission of information signals, among them U.S. Patent 1,641,608 a system for the transmission and distribution of signals over electrical lines.
Squier recognized the potential for this technology to be used to deliver music to listeners without the use of radio, which at the time was in early state and required fussy and expensive equipment. Early successful tests were performed, delivering music to customers on New York’s Staten Island via their electrical wires.
In 1922, the rights to Squier’s patents were acquired by the North American Company utility conglomerate, which created the firm Wired Radio, Inc. to deliver music to their customers, charging them for music on their electric bill. By the 1930s radio had made great advances, and households began listening to broadcasts received via the airwaves for free, supported by advertising.
Squier remained involved in the project, but as the home market became eclipsed by radio in 1934 he changed the company’s focus to delivering music to commercial clients. Intrigued by the made-up word Kodak used as a trademark, he took the first syllable from “music” and added “ak” from “Kodak” to create Muzak, which became the company’s new name.
In 1937, the Muzak division was purchased by entrepreneur William Benton who wanted to introduce Muzak into new markets like barbershops and doctors’ offices. While Muzak had initially produced tens of thousands of original artist recordings by the top performers of the late 1930s and 1940s, their new strategy required a different sound.
The company began customizing the pace and style of the music provided throughout the workday in an effort to maintain productivity. The music was programmed in 15-minute blocks, gradually getting faster in tempo and louder and brassier in instrumentation, to encourage workers to speed up their pace. Following the completion of a 15-minute segment, the music would fall silent for 15 minutes. This was partly done for technical reasons, but company-funded research also showed that alternating music with silence limited listener fatigue, and made the “stimulus” effect of Stimulus Progression more effective.
During this period, Muzak began recording their own “orchestra” – actually a number of orchestras in studios around the country, sometimes in other countries as well – composed of top local studio musicians. This allowed them to control all aspects of the music for insertion into specific slots in the Stimulus Progression programs.
In the 1950s, it gradually became public knowledge that Muzak was using music to manipulate behavior. There were accusations of brainwashing, and court challenges. However, its popularity remained high through the mid-1960s. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to pump Muzak into the West Wing, and Lyndon B. Johnson owned the Muzak franchise in Austin, Texas. NASA reportedly used Muzak in many of its space missions to soothe astronauts and occupy periods of inactivity.
With the rise in youth culture and the growing influence of the baby boomer generation in the 1960s and 1970s, Muzak’s popularity declined. It began losing market share to new “foreground music” companies, such as AEI Music Network Inc. and Yesco, that offered so-called “original artist music programming.” Rather than using orchestral re-recordings as Muzak had for its Stimulus Progression program, they licensed original recordings, and included vocal music. They also differed many styles, from rock and pop to Spanish-language programming (for Mexican restaurants), jazz, blues and classical, as well as the traditional “easy listening.” Foreground music markets included restaurants, fashion stores, retail outlets, malls, dental offices, airlines and public spaces.
Muzak merged with Yesco in September 1986. When Muzak began programming original artists in 1984, it was after merging with Yesco, and the programming was done by Yesco. This necessitated abandonment of the Stimulus Progression concept.
A small contingent of Muzak’s business continued to provide their trademarked background music sound where it remained popular, particularly in Japan.
2 CD-R come packaged as shown and contain 90 minutes of 1970 MUZAK, perfect background for relaxing, shopping, or staring into the air!