All About The Muzak!

Muzak, also known as "elevator music," was originally conceived in 1922 by US Military General and scientist George Owen Squier when he created Wired Radio, a service which piped mood music to businesses and subscribers over wires. In 1934, he changed the service's name to 'Muzak'. Muzak was a subscription service for companies as a new way to reduce employee fatigue and increase productivity in the workplace. Its aim was to create a calming and unobtrusive environment by playing a continuous stream of instrumental music, which later included pop tunes. The concept became widely popular and soon found its way into settings like malls, elevators and waiting rooms. This soothing music, often consisting of instrumental covers of popular songs or easy-listening genres like jazz or classical, has been found to have many positive effects on the psyche.  

Studies have shown that music can have a powerful impact on our emotions and can be used to reduce stress and anxiety. In busy areas like shopping malls or airports, the use of Muzak can help to create a more relaxed and enjoyable environment, making it easier for people to navigate these spaces. 

In retail stores, it was found that playing slower tempo music led to customers browsing longer and spending more money. In elevators and waiting rooms, it helped to reduce stress and anxiety by providing a pleasant background noise and filling the ambient space. 

Despite its early success through the industrial and commercial booms of the 50s and through into the 90s, Muzak has fallen out of favor in recent years. The company Mood Media purchased the brand name Muzak in 2011 for a deal worth $345 Million and subsequently itself went bankrupt in 2017. Many companies have opted for more personalized and targeted music choices, tailored to their specific brand and demographic. Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have also made it easier for businesses to curate their own playlists. Still, the legacy of Muzak lives on, and its impact not only on the music industry but also in our collective experience of commercial spaces can be still be felt. The brand name Muzak now synonymous with "elevator music" or just ambient commercial music in general. Its influence also continues to resonate in the Vaporwave genre of music. 

Vaporwave, a sub-genre of electronic music originating around 2011, is known for its heavily processed and slowed-down samples of 1980s and 1990s music. It borrows heavily from the Muzak sound, which often consisted of easy-listening versions of popular songs. Vaporwave artists sometimes use Muzak versions of songs as the basis for their own tracks.

Vaporwave's name originated for the term Vaporware which was software that was akin to a vapor or impermanent. It was meant to be used or samples and then to evaporate away. Much like the nature of Muzak which was created to be a vaporous form of music. An impernent and unobtrusive ambient sound design to temporarily fill a space. The two musical movements share this theme of imperanence and transient essence.

Vaporwave samples and recontextualizes Muzak's easy-listening tunes, transforming them into nostalgic, glitchy, and sometimes eerie compositions. The manipulated melodies and slowed-down tempos evoke a sense of longing for a bygone era, intertwining with Vaporwave's critique of consumer culture and capitalist excess. 

By appropriating and subverting the sonic essence of Muzak, Vaporwave artists like,  Corp., pay homage to the genre while simultaneously deconstructing its original purpose, creating a sonic collage that resonates with a contemporary audience seeking to reflect on the past in an ironic and introspective manner. 

Check out some Muzak / Mall Soft playlists below. 

Mall Soft & Shopping Mall Ambience Spotify Playlist

'70s Grocery Store Muzak Spotify Playlist 

50s / 60s Lounge Muzak Spotify Playlist