The End of Muzak

Friday, February 08, 2013


Muzak – the carefully-curated elevator music maligned for its mild and universally inoffensive sound – is ditching its name. Mood Media, the parent company of Muzak, has decided to rebrand their music services under the name “Mood” in an attempt to distance themselves from a label that has become a regular source of ridicule. Brooke talks with Joseph Lanza about his book Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong. 


Joseph Lanza

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [6]

Thanks for having the muzak in the background to the story and interview. Given how ridiculous the muzak promoters' rationale was, the muzak in the background made him look the liar and fool he is. For anyone who enjoys real music or has sensitive musical ears, it's horrible to hear that muzak. Muzak has always been based on psuedoscience, using market research with flimsy research on how the music affects shopping. The premises insult and objectify the shopper, but in fact they increase the level of stupidity in the businesses that use it. Of course the other extreme exists today, go into a clothing store and often one is assaulted with the most annoying rap or edgy rock at full volume. But often now, the best alt rock is piped into stores and supermarkets. That just changed too, now I hear the same extremely annoying top 40 hits heard a million times (the current ones, not the classic ones) piped into Safeway. The last things I want to hear are muzak, top40, or edgy heavy metal or rap anywhere. I hope the muzak people are losing money, they deserve it.

Feb. 13 2013 04:32 AM
Jon C from Pasadena, CA

Follow in David’s keystrokes: “Theme from A Summer Place” was not composed & arranged for Muzak; Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” not for “2001,” “Magnificent 7” not for Marlboro Cigarettes, and Mouret’s “Rondeau” from “Orchestral Suite 1” not for Masterpiece Theater. Someone heard it; someone liked it; someone licensed it. Muzak hired arrangers to write big bland music, often in New York. "Summer Place” is actually a very “Zen” arrangement and Percy Faith was a brilliant arranger. You got yer melody, harmony & rhythm, and all without a wasted note – very effective. More is not always better. You can find the same simplicity in Bach's "Air on a G String" and the g*d awful Taco Bell "Canon" - none of which were written for Muzak, although "Canon" makes me wonder.

Feb. 10 2013 11:07 PM

What? Good old fashioned elevator music , instead of the classic rock and oldies stations that I hear everywhere these days? Yes, Please.

Feb. 10 2013 05:38 PM

I could barely listen to this story because of the music, and when Mr. Lanza said it had been used to calm people in unsettling situations (like plunging elevators) I suddenly realized why: because no matter how it's labeled, "easy listening" music is the soundtrack to some awful times in my life. I was instantly transported back to emergency rooms, doctor's offices, etc.

I'll take a quietly plunging elevator any day!

Feb. 10 2013 01:32 PM

The Percy Faith hit record "Theme from A Summer Place" and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's hit record "Lollipops and Roses" are NOT Muzak. A pop instrumental is not Muzak, otherwise the Grammy Awards would not have a category for it.

The other two musical pieces played (light, bland instrumental versions of "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" and "If You Could Read My Mind") are.

Feb. 10 2013 11:28 AM
J D Yeager from PA

One thing I missed in the story -- and perhaps it's in the book -- where and how was all this muzak recorded ?!? I assume studio musicians at various places all over, but I would like to hear that backstory....

Feb. 09 2013 04:41 PM

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