The Day The Muzak Brand Died
The reason your grandparents bought all their new cars in the '70s.
Muzak is dying. Long live Muzak.
That great musical mainstay of elevators, shopping centers, and other hellish waiting places is getting consolidated by its owner Mood Media, melding inside their own longstanding multi-sensory brand simply called Mood.
By far my favorite Muzak tune was Lionel Richie's "Stuck On You". It really knocked the "I guess I'm on my way" part out of the park. I can hear it now...
The Atlantic Wire has a great timeline of the company's history here.
In 2011, Muzak was bought for $345 million by Mood Media, which also has the market cornered on sensory marketing, where they engineer fully-enveloping experiences for their clients and their clients' customers. Mood is why certain stores smell the way they do, or their colors are just so.
Since its inception in 1934, Muzak has helped create the insidious soundtrack for your most mundane tasks, while also alternately becoming a stunning score for your most important ones. Factories in World War II used Muzak to increase workers' productivity.
The company was founded by World War I veteran General George Owen Squier. The former military man liked the way the name Kodak looked and sounded, so the Muzak name was born.
Through Stimulus Progression programs, Muzak colluded with corporate America to alter the working patterns of countless employees. Faster Muzak meant faster workers, calming Muzak sedating workers in high-stress locations. Muzak was even used by NASA to mellow Apollo astronauts on extremely important missions.
Younger people probably know Muzak's former competitor DMX -- the barking rapper -- a bit better. That company supplied actual music to its clients, not the Muzak variety. But both are now owned by Mood, which means DMX will also be a thing of the past.
Obviously Muzak was the bane of many a rocker's existence, diluting popular music into jaunty or saccharine pieces that were nearly unrecognizable to their plugged-in ancestors. In 1989, Ted Nugent offered up $10 million to buy the company with the expressed intent to shutter it for good.
In 1996 the company decided to pull its planned $69 million IPO, instead going the more reliable (ha) junk bond market, which predictably meant disaster.
In 2009, after another decade and a half of financial floundering, Muzak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing assets of only $50,000. This helped out immensely and the company (sorta) emerged out of ruin with less debt, just in time for Mood Media to snap it up..
The Muzak name may be dying, but the sound is not. Your favorite bloodless instrumental versions of Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars cuts will still be around, you may just have to listen harder.
If you think about it, Muzak has probably been one of the biggest unsung influences on modern music. No? OK, never mind. I guess I am alone on that ranch.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.