• Motown Goes to Washington

    White HouseThe White House adds soul to this month’s Black History Month celebration with Motown’s most popular acts. The event broadcasts on PBS March 1st with performances by Smokey Robinson, Sheryl Crow and John Legend in keeping with Michelle Obama’s dedication to music and arts education.

    “In Performance at the White House” is a series of performances that has spanned the music range and included a Broadway celebration, Thelonius Monk, Alison Krauss, The US Marine Band, Linda Ronstadt and Aretha Franklin. Even dance has been spotlighted. It’s good to see different genres of music brought to the public. I expect that this will be a performance worth catching.

  • A Lot to Process

    Muzak Master Recording

    Muzak Master Recording

    I think it’s time to take a breath… and see where we’ve been and where we’re going with this music archive voyage we’re on. In past blogs we’ve explored Muzak’s early years, looked into the contributions of our founder, Gen. George Squier, and legendary Muzak producer, Ben Selvin. We’ve visited our earliest recording sessions in Manhattan and discovered some of the amazing recording artists we brought into these sessions. We’ve followed the track for this physical archive collection and found out what we’re doing to bring it back to life.

    With over 75 years in our rear window, we have barely scraped the surface. We’ve unearthed information about our first decade, but haven’t touched the ‘40s yet, which many believe was our most impactful decade. Every decade has its own musical story and we have the recordings to prove it.

    So, before I move on, I’d like to first thank you for joining me on this journey. Next I’d like to make sure you’re up to speed on my past archive blogs. Go to the top of the page and click “Blogging the Archives”. There you’ll find over 10 blogs about this intriguing subject. Have fun!

    I’ll be back in a few days to continue our voyage.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan

  • Currently Obsessing Over

    imagesDavid Bowie rose to stardom way before my time and despite the fact that he first became known to me as Jareth the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth, Bowie is an icon. He has presented himself as glamorous, flamboyant and sometimes even androgynous with many alter egos. Having experimented with different styles of music over the years, Bowie is innovative, intelligent and quite possibly one of the greatest rock artists of all time.

    So, it’s no surprise that any musician would desire and be honored to cover a David Bowie song. I accidentally stumbled across We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie a few weeks ago even though it was released September 2010. To think I’ve been missing 4 months of these awesome tracks!

    Showcasing their unique perspectives, each of these artists has taken on the daunting task of re-creating a Bowie song. So daunting, in fact, that Bowie himself has never approved any other tribute album. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up – or even better, download it on iTunes for the bonus tracks. Not only does the album feature amazing contributions, but proceeds go to War Child, a charity Bowie himself supports.
    Stand out songs and artists on this album (i.e. songs I can’t stop listening to):

    Ziggy Stardust by Ariana Delawari
    African Night Flight by Aska + Bobby Evans feat. Moon & Moon
    As the World Falls Down by Lights
    Ashes To Ashes by Warpaint
    Always Crashing in the Same Car by Chairlift
    Suffragette City by A Place To Bury Strangers
    Fashion by Afghan Raiders
    China Girl by Xu Xu Fang
    Space Oddity by Exitmusic
    Look Back In Anger by Halloween Swim Team
    Soul Love by Genuflex
    The Bewlay Brothers by Sister Crayon
    Fame by All Leather
    Heroes by VoicesVoices

    Why I’m obsessing over this album: hearing some electronic versions and female versions of Bowie songs is enough to satiate my constant craving for new music. Also, I discovered some new to me artists on this album. One in particular is Ariana Delawari, who put an album out in 2009, Lion of Panjshir, produced by David Lynch, yet another innovative musician, filmmaker, director and artist of our time.

    To all who played a role in We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie, rock on.

    Contributed by Ashley Columbus

  • Cochella, Then and Now

    image003[1]Indio, CA and its surrounding neighbors of Palm Desert and Palm Springs has always been a location where retirees go to relax and enjoy the warm weather or play some golf. Since 1999 though, the Empire Polo Grounds, which sits right smack in the middle of Indio, CA is basically is a huge oasis of irrigated lawn and has been the sight of The Coachella Music Festival.

    Every year around April, masses of music lovers from all around the globe attend this 2-3 day festival which has grown  immensely since its inception.  With over 25,000 people attending the inaugural event with headliners Beck and Rage Against The Machine, the festival is now a haven for either the up and coming artist, established acts or the ever recurrence of bands reuniting for that one off show.

    With acts ranging from Madonna to Sir Paul McCartney, you’ll get everything here via the many music tents situated around the grounds. In one tent, you may get DJ Shadow performing to a hip young crowd of ravers and then in another you may here a spoken word performance by the legendary Leonard Cohen. With 2001 being the only year this festival has not taken place, it’s now averaging over 75,000 to 100,000 a night.  image006

    Out of the 12 years this event has taken place, I’ve been to 3 of them. The 2004 festival was my favorite, with Radiohead and the Cure headlining as well as the reunited Pixies performing too.  So, if you’re looking to run into a celebrity or two and are tough enough to brave the 100+ heat that comes along with it, this is the music festival for you!

    This year’s lineup is getting a lot of attention, with some great acts across all 3 days. For more information, visit: www.cochella.com.

    Contributed by Alex Espinosa

  • Inventing a Business Model

    444px-Waldorf-Astoria_1904-1908bBy the 1920’s, the administration of music rights had become a major business.  The American Society of Composers, Artists, and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded, serving as a member-owned organization to fight for fair compensation when recorded work was publicly performed.

    While radio stations could license programming for personal performance, they could not track where music was being played and take responsibility for its licensing. Muzak’s business model, however, was ideal for this task. Because every Muzak receiver could be uniquely identified, it was easy for Muzak to track who was using their service and what the service was being used for.

    In the late 1930’s Muzak moved to New York City and began to cater to the hotel and restaurant market in such famed venues as the Chambord, the Stork Club, and the Waldorf Astoria. Audio would subsequently be sent to clubs through leased telephone lines. Speakers would be hidden amongst large plants, thereby making the music seem to come out of nowhere and lending the name “potted palm” music. With the disappearance of any visible means of sound production, Muzak exceeded the gramophone’s capacity to make sound autonomous. In delivering programming to the workplace, Muzak soothed the minds of employees, enhancing their productivity while eliminating the distractions caused by commercials, scripted programs, and other verbal content.

    Sending music to the workplace was in keeping with the vision that General George Squier had left for the company. As Chief Signal Officer of the US Army Signal Corps, Gen. Squier used music to increase the productivity of his secretaries. Afterward, he investigated ways that music could recapture the benefits of pre-industrial song, in order to soothe the nerves of employees while increasing their output. The idea of using music to improve an environment was not uncommon by the 1930s, when dentists employed music to augment or even replace anesthetic. Even though a compliment to the power of music, I wouldn’t try this at home!

    Muzak soon proved effective in locations beyond the office or factory floor. As skyscrapers reached ever taller in North American cities, building owners employed Muzak to calm anxious elevator riders; quickly earning its programs the name “elevator music.”

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan

  • Mix It Up

    il_570xN.198241621-1

    This cute key chain plushy is the perfect gift for the Deadmau5 fan in your life.

    From Soymujer

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/59493513/deadmau5-keychain-plushie-or-ornament?ref=sr_gallery_3&ga_search_query=music&ga_search_type=handmade

  • Britney: Coming Back?

    223258,xcitefun-britney-spears-hold-it-against-me-cover-1No doubt by now, you’ve heard Ms. Spears’ latest single ‘Hold it Against Me’, produced by Max Martin and Dr. Luke. The impossible to avoid track, done in classic Britney style, offers no real surprises. What surprised me was that it managed a chart debut at # 1, even with all of the new material and fresh faces competing for the same target listener’s attention.

    For someone who has been in show business her entire life, Britney Spears deserves credit for delivering consistently catchy material. But while consistency has been the key to her success thus far, I’m not sure how much longer the twice married mother of two can continue banking on her current image.

    That’s not to say that parenthood or an impending 30th birthday should change who anyone is in the slightest. But getting a job or just getting older has undoubtedly changed the lives of many of her most die hard fans. When ‘Baby One More Time’ was topping MTV’s Total Request Live with Carson Daly in 1999, my friends and I were instant fans because Britney was just like us, only way cooler, bopping through the halls of her high school. Now? For fans like me, it’s getting harder to connect to her music at 7:30am on my way the office after dropping my daughter off at daycare.

    Clearly, many fans have shown that they can overlook the rehab stints, the psychiatric ward and the head shaving incidents, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also looking for something new. In this unpredictable age of Lady Gaga, pop divas can’t maintain their status with good looks and racy lyrics alone. A new, higher level of art and creativity is sneaking into a traditionally superficial genre–and that’s something that a simple fan mom like me can appreciate during my commute.

  • Muzak Vs. Radio

    WJW_Radio_jpg[1]The initial concept of Muzak arose from a vision by General George Squier. He was a renowned innovator, inventor and communications genius who patented the delivery of audio content via electrical (and eventually telephone) lines, using multiplex technology. Gen. Squier was not satisfied with the commercial structure of radio, because programs were funded by intrusive commercials. He envisioned a new network, void of commercials and supported by a fee. Sound familiar?

    Even though Muzak had hundreds of distinguished Cleveland area residents as customers in 1934, success was not immediate. The start-up Cleveland company fell victim to the Depression. Cash strapped middle class consumers were more inclined to stick with a one-time radio purchase over the expense of a long-term lease.

    Additionally, radio companies opposed the idea of Muzak competing for their listeners. In 1938, the Federal Communications Commission severely restricted Muzak’s market in radio’s favor by forbidding the company from using electrical power lines for broadcast directly into homes.

    Although Squier’s inventions of wired wireless and signal multiplexing would later be widely adopted by cable and satellite broadcasters, by the late 1930’s Muzak would be restricted by law to commercial venues only.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan

  • 2011 Audio Architect Summit

    -3We’re a very lucky fly on the wall at today’s kickoff of the 2011 Muzak Audio Architect summit. Our locally and nationally based music gurus have collectively descended on Uptown Charlotte for 72 hours of creative meetings.

    Have a question for the group? Drop it in the comments or @ us @MuzakLLC on Twitter.

  • For Music Writers

    il_570xN.204118739There’s no shortage of creativity on Etsy, but this authentic vintage necklace re-purposes charming antiques into a great new accessory.

    A snippet of vintage sheet music is preserved under the glass of an authentic antique typewriter key. A great conversation piece and a meaningful gift for the musician / writer in your life.

    From busterandboo.

    See it here: http://www.etsy.com/listing/64884434/typewriter-key-necklacependant-vintage?ref=sr_gallery_30&ga_search_query=music&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=&order=&includes[0]=tags&includes[1]=title&filter[0]=handmade