• Set the Right Ambiance

    Ladies at LunchThe environment of your business is always changing.  Your music should reflect and even influence that ambiance.  It’s the difference between a casual lunch and a livelier happy hour.  Opening a new business account on Tuesdays and cashing that Friday paycheck.  The business traveler checking in for a conference and a young couple on a romantic getaway.  Adjust your music to set the mood for your customers in the appropriate context of your business.  They’ll take notice and connect with your brand on a deeper personal level.  And that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.

    Contributed by Joe Hall, Muzak Product Line Manager

  • Welcome Aboard Joe

    edit oar

    Over the past 8 months, you’ve read about my navigation through the early waters of Muzak.  The boat we’ve been riding is powered by an ocean of folks who have researched, dug into and discovered treasures from our history on a daily basis.

    The stories have not only come from the 40 pallets of archives we’ve been searching through the last 3 years, but from hoards of other sources.  Muzak franchisees, some of whom have over 7 decades of Muzak experiences, have shared stories and artifacts with our archive team.  A history professor and author from Chicago, Chris Stacy, has been a tremendous resource as have David and Emily Selvin, grandchildren of Muzak’s legendary producer, Ben Selvin.  There have been fact finding missions with ex-Muzak executives, including Chuck Walker, Rod Baum, Bruce Funkhouser and past CEOs Bill Boyd and 92-year-old Bing Muscio.  Several books have been written about Muzak and the internet has led us to many unexpected finds. Our Muzak Archive team of Roberta Keener, Jan Turner, Jagger Gestson, Bryant Hill, Lou Mondelli, Rick Nash, Tabatha Mullennix, Kira Bloomingdale and Jerri Firth, along with our archive curator, JK Dameron, has been relentless at uncovering and archiving historic gems.

    But, getting first hand information from someone who actually experienced those early Muzak days in the ‘30s and ‘40s is a rare find indeed.  Sure, Bing Muscio and Bill Boyd shared wonderful Muzak information from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but no earlier than that … not firsthand anyways.

    Then, last week a gentlemen who said he was in his “geezer-hood,” sent a message to our blog that warmed my heart and compelled me to contact him directly. Two calls and a dozen emails later, I realized that we had struck gold.  His name is Joe Adams.  He is 85-years-old and became a huge fan of Muzak in the ‘30s and ‘40s while in his teens.  The radio station he listened to played Muzak recordings.  As with most teens today, music became a huge part of Joe’s life.  He knew every song, every singer, every story … everything.  He boasted that the music, artists and quality was better on his favorite station, KE2XCC, than any other station in his Alpine, NJ area.  His station played Muzak’s Associated transcription recordings exclusively.  He knew all the artists, what their pseudonyms were, where they performed live, and what they ate for breakfast (almost).  For most of us, the passions of our childhood days fade.  But not for Joe.  He followed his passion for music throughout his life:  into military service, fatherhood, his journalism career, and into his “geezer-hood.”

    As Joe and I chatted at length about Muzak’s master library, he told me stories about almost every artist.  He became my own personal wiki.   We were both like kids in a candy store.

    So, as I continue to write about our journey through the waters of Muzak history, Joe will, from time to time, grab one of the oars.  Welcome aboard Joe!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Lots of NOISE! in Charlotte

    H&S_LogoWith the recent purchase of Muzak by Mood Media (see more in section 411), the press has been busy releasing stories about the merger, the personalities and the international impact.  The volume on the news coming out of the Mood Media/Muzak North American headquarters in Fort Mill, has been turned up.

    Another story is starting to reverberate from the Charlotte area that’s beginning to catch the ears and hearts of the community.  Muzak’s Heart & Soul Foundation was founded in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, dedicated to supporting music education for elementary to high school students.  One of Heart & Soul’s primary educational programs is called NOISE!, which invites dozens of high school students with a talent and passion for music to a 10 day summer camp to learn all about the music industry.  All student expenses for NOISE! are covered by the Heart & Soul Foundation.  Over the past 12 years, NOISE! camp has been held in New York, LA, Atlanta and Nashville.  This year, starting July 10th, NOISE! comes to Charlotte.

    Sixteen high school students will be coming from across the US to attend NOISE! camp, based on the campus of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, just outside of Charlotte.  Music counselors, along with industry experts from across the country, will guide the students through the nuances of composing, producing, recording, marketing, booking and managing.  It’s an intense, non-stop music program that immerses these talented and musically gifted kids deeply into their passion.

    Muzak’s Director of Licensing and coordinator of NOISE! 2011 curriculum, Jason McCormick comments, “after this year’s camp each student will walk away with a clear understanding of what it takes to create, market and sell music.  NOISE! gives all 16 students  a once in a lifetime opportunity to test drive their dreams.”

    For more information about Muzak Heart & Soul go to: heart.muzak.com

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Company Communications, Heart & Soul Foundation

  • The Sound of Muzak in the ’40s

    John Kirby

    John Kirby

    I have a few more blogs coming that will continue to uncover Muzak’s trendsetting customer research approach of the 1940s.  But you know me by now.  We’ve gotta hear some more music from our archives first!

    As owner Bill Benton was firing up the marketing machine, Ben Selvin continued his genius in the Muzak APM studios, recording the industry’s best.  Many of us think the recordings he captured through this decade are among our finest.  The singers were amazing; Rosemary Clooney, The Deep River Boys, a young Vic Damone, the Galli Sisters, and the list goes on.  The bands, arrangements and productions just kept getting better with each session.

    So, which track should we pick to get us started in the ‘40s?  Remember, these tracks have never been released to the public and haven’t been heard in over 50 years!

    I literally closed my eyes and randomly picked a track.  One of approximately 7,500 we recorded in the 1940s.

    …and the winner is (drum roll please) “Desert Night” by jazz band leader and double-bassists, John Kirby.   Having played with the likes of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and Buster Bailey, John Kirby was an extremely popular band leader in the ‘30s and ‘40s.  Listen to the musicianship and solos as John Kirby’s 6 piece group nailed this song in just one take back on August 18, 1944 at the Muzak studio in Manhattan.  Not a bad random pick if I do say so myself.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • This Place ROCKS!

    FrontDesk50I remember in 1998 the first mention that we were considering moving our Muzak headquarters from Seattle to the Charlotte area.  As a native of Seattle I was, well, just a little disheartened.  A few months later then CEO, Bill Boyd asked me to take the lead on moving the company and building the new Home Office in a town just outside of Charlotte called Fort Mill.

    The thought of moving away from family and friends was none too attractive for my wife, Beth and me.  But the prospect of helping to design and build a new Muzak home, conceived from our vision for the company’s future, was extremely appealing.

    Jim Biber, selected as architect and chief designer of our new building once commented “a work space is as much a social place as it is a functional place.  People don’t just go there to earn money; they go to an office for interaction, and for a sense of community.”

    I remember days when we studied aerial views of Italian cities for hours to research the notion that space defined within cities can create a forum of social interaction.  Reflecting on how an Italian piazza (town square) serves as a crossroads, gathering place and intimate heart of a city, we decided to configure the interior with a piazza at its center and bridges and walkways joining open areas.  Our new 100,000 sq. ft. Home Office was designed to include 25 conference rooms, 35 studios, desks on wheels and no private offices… not even for the CEO.  And music was designed to play everywhere.  Over 250 speakers were installed both inside and out to deliver the Muzak soundtrack 24/7, except in one place: the elevator.

    On October 31st, 2000, 325 employees, comprised of 100 transplants from Muzak offices in Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Raleigh and Boston, and 225 new hires entered our new Home Office in Fort Mill for the first time.  I’ll never forget the looks on their faces.  They were blown away!  It was huge, open, overwhelming, like nothing they’d ever seen before.  Design awards immediately followed as hoards of media cameras began to capture our unique facility for local and national TV and print.

    Architecture CircleAfter 11 years, the dynamic and innovative design continues to make this place a destination in itself for clients and prospects.  Companies come away with a feeling that Muzak is cooler and more innovative than they ever imagined.  With a wall of guitars signed by rock musicians, senators, dignitaries and thousands of guests, our daily visitors experience first hand that this place Rocks!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Company Communications, Heart & Soul Foundation

  • Björk Prepares to Stretch the Limits Again

    bjorkbiophiliaBjörk has announced that her 7th album will be once again pushing the bounds – surprise.  The Biophilia album will include at least 10 iPad Apps and intertwines with the live show. It is based on the relationship of the sciences, including biology, astrology and sound physics.  Her website, bjork.com, has been re-released based on the new album, and although it is interesting, it will not be completely updated until Biophilia is released, likely later this summer.  The site is best viewed in Google Chrome or Safari.  She will also perform tracks from the album at the Manchester International Festival between June 27th and July 16th.

    Always one to step outside of what is expected; Björk is once again using the available technology to bring the experience of her music to a place that has not been tested yet.  One of the Apps reportedly is a game in which cells are attacked by a virus.  If you kill the virus, the music stops, and at some point the cells sing along to the chorus.

    Two new instruments were created by organ builder Björgvin Tómasson for the album.  Although I personally am not one to sit and listen to Björk while hanging out, what she does with her albums can really be an interesting experience.  And whether they admit it or not, most people are impacted by musical experiences.

  • … And Now from the Employees

    Music At Work EmployeesIn our last archive blog we quoted managers from the 1940s who subscribed to Muzak.  Now let’s hear from their employees.  Remember, this was the first time laborers ever had music to work by.  These are quotes found in Muzak marketing materials from the mid ‘40s.

    Employee Union President (1943): “Muzak is an outstanding fatigue-killer, especially when they hit the slow time around 3:30.  It’s the best morale builder they’ve ever had in our plants.  You can notice the people on the night shift.  They used to drag when they came on for their ten-hour shift.  Now they practically dance up to their machines.”

    Airplane employee laborer (1944): “We take a real pleasure in sending you a note of appreciation to the ‘music while working’.  It is considered as a definite mark of good will from the company toward its employees.”

    … and another employee (1944): “We have been telling the people in the shop that the management is interested in them and looking for any improvements possible in their working conditions and their welfare.  They just had proof of this by getting the music…”

    You gotta love Muzak’s advertising approach in the ‘40s.  As a marketing pioneer, then owner Bill Benton championed consumer research and used it all through his sales and marketing materials.

    Wait ‘til you see what else we found… ‘til next time!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Please Don’t Laugh

    Muzak At Work Brochure

    Muzak At Work Brochure

    As I mentioned in my last archive blog, Bill Benton, owner of Muzak from 1939 through ’57, was the marketing genius who introduced consumer research to the advertising industry… and to Muzak.  Combing through several sales brochures produced in the ‘40s, it’s easy to see the influence Benton’s consumer approach had on the way we presented Muzak to businesses.

    Now, please don’t laugh!  At least not out loud.  Just remember that this was the ‘40s and music was still a novelty in the workplace.  Here are just a few quotes found in our sales brochures entitled, “Managers Report About Music at Work”.  This was during WWII when women dominated the work force… over 70 years ago…

    “We have found that the effect on our employees has been to make them mentally alert.  Workers leave at the end of the day much fresher and brighter.”

    “In the short time Muzak has been in our building, we note that employees, especially women, are quieter at their tasks, there is much less talking and more concentration on the work at hand.”

    “We have found that music has stimulated production in some departments, especially among younger girls who are learners.”

    “Right now, we are in a drive to “top the top” on our production.  One of the items of our campaign is ‘Muzak-While-You-Work’.  Employees appreciate it.  The music helps uplift morale.  Muzak helps make work a pleasure in our plant.”

    “We believe that music of this type is a factor of great potential importance in maintaining wartime output and that it will probably make a permanent place for itself even after the war.”

    My oh my.  How times have changed!  Our sales and ad campaigns are run a little differently these days… but Benton seemed to know what he was doing back in the ‘40s.  By 1950, Muzak was a household name.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Make Them Look – The Weather

    Weather AppPeople love weather information.  It doesn’t matter if they’re standing on top of a hill in a room with bay windows; if the weather forecast pops onto the screen they take interest.  Muzak’s digital signage allows you to easily display weather information for your location.  There are several feeds available to use including current weather and three day forecasts.  Recent studies have shown that including weather information in your digital signage campaign can increase attention paid to your screens up to 37%!  It’s as easy as entering your local zip code.  You’ll have customers riveted to your screen, making your sales and branded campaigns that much more effective.

    Contributed by Joe Hall, Muzak Product Line Manager

  • Something’s Burning

    abstract fire on blackAfter spending the last 3 years digging into our past 77 years, I’ve discovered that as some aspects of Muzak have remained the same, many more have evolved and changed.  Through 8 decades we’ve had over 10 owners, relocated our corporate offices 8 times, 3 of them coast to coast, and have had over 25 different presidents/CEOs.  With new company goals and objectives, Muzak has flexed with the needs.  Through the depression, WWII, Watergate, Woodstock, disco and recessions, we’ve adjusted our practices to change with the times, events, people and business.

    But there’s a piece of this company of ours that just seems to live on.  It’s become part of our culture.  I call it the spirit of our people.

    Some attribute the origins of this spirit to our franchisee network, many of whom have been Muzakers for several generations: the stories they tell, the experiences they share, the expertise they worked so hard to gain, the community of family they have built.  Some say it’s the music: Muzak pioneers who helped craft the music industry since 1934, the music played each and every day in Muzak offices, the fact that we attract so many musically passionate employees – they always find wonderful ways to share their talents.  Others say it’s our spirit of giving, exemplified by Muzak’s Heart & Soul Foundation, supporting music education for kids.

    When I was asked to help build our Home Office in Fort Mill, SC back in 2000, we agreed to design it to encourage openness and communication, creativity and community.  Eleven years later it continues to foster that same spirit.  And we can’t forget the Muzak Green Team, the Shakers and the hordes of employees who always seem ready to help in any way they can to make this a better place to work.

    I once read that the easiest way to assess your company’s culture is to look around.  How do the employees act; what do they do?  Look for common behaviors and visible symbols.

    So, go ahead and look around.  What you’ll find is an undeniable spirit at the center of our Muzak culture: a spirit that has kept the fire burning for 77 years, a spirit whose embers are fueled by our Muzak family each and every day.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Company Communications, Heart & Soul Foundation