• The Father of Consumer Research

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    Bill Benton, Muzak owner from 1939 to 1957, began his reign by applying some of his marketing genius and experience to help build his new business.  Dr. George Gallup called Benton a “father” of advertising consumer research for his development in 1928 of the first study of its kind, measuring consumer preference. The success of Bill’s NY advertising agency Benton & Bowles was closely related to the rise in popularity of radio.  Benton & Bowles invented the radio soap opera to promote their clients’ products, and by 1936 were responsible for three of the four most popular radio programs on the air.

    Having purchased his own private broadcast network (Muzak) in 1939, Benton immediately employed his consumer research advertising approach.  Muzak was experiencing some success with their music service in NYC restaurants and hotels.  Benton saw an additional opportunity in the workplace.  These were the Depression years and Benton knew that business owners demanded proof that whatever money they spent must go toward building their business.  He also knew he had a product that could deliver the goods: great music and a state-of-the-art delivery technology.

    Bill Benton hired renowned research specialists H. Burris-Meyer and R.L. Cardinell.  They quickly produced research data showing that music in the workplace increased employee productivity, decreased absenteeism and increased morale.  With this information, Benton went to market with campaigns that promoted Muzak’s music in the workplace.  It worked.  Businesses in several east coast cities started subscribing to his music service.  These early successes lead to Muzak’s introduction into 1,400 factories nationwide, helping to drive American manufacturing efforts during WWII.

    In only a few short years Bill Benton had built Muzak into a nationally recognized company.  But he wasn’t finished.  Not by a long shot!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • It’s in the Blood

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    This weekend I decided to take some time to step back and think about what’s really going on inside Muzak… my home for over 15 years.

    If you’ve been following this blog, or read the parade of Muzak press releases over the last few years, you are aware that we’ve been through more changes than most companies experience in a lifetime.  Since 2008, this 77-year-old company has successfully withstood a potential merger, bankruptcy, two sales and a change at the top.  All of this while making significant strides in distribution technologies, product lines, productivity and customer service.

    So, what is it that has held us together through all this change and commotion?  Sure, some employees were not comfortable with the change, and opted to leave.  Also, several new execs, with their own unique management goals and style, created a level of insecurity for some employees, which was to be expected.  But, through it all, there continues to be something at Muzak that holds this place together.

    My dad was a fireman for 28 years.  It was who he was.  The experiences he shared with his fellow firemen created the glue that bonded him to his work.  The fire stories he’d tell at night would make me squirm, but the pride he had for his work was inspirational.  The guys meant everything to my dad.  His work and his mates were like a second family to him.

    My son lives with his family in our home town of Seattle.  Last weekend we were catching up on the phone when the topic turned to Muzak.  He started laughing when I began conversing about a project I was working on with several employees.  I had to take a step back when he said, “Dad, sometimes I can’t tell the difference between your work and you.  I guess that’s just who you are.”   It had a familiar ring to it.

    There’s something about the people, the relationships, the experiences, and the culture here at Muzak that keeps so many of us engaged.  It’s the pride for our history, our passion for music, a commitment to giving back to our communities and this crazy but wonderful business that keeps us coming back.   Several of our franchise owners have been around for two and three generations.  Twenty-five years of service by employees is a fairly common occurrence.  Last year over 250 employees celebrated 10 years or more with Muzak.  I’ve never run the numbers, but I have to believe that the average tenure of our 1,000 employees and hundreds of affiliates is a least double any similar company.  There’s a special pride in where we’ve been, who we are, and where we’re going.  For so many of us this place is simply in our blood.

    The future looks extremely bright here at Muzak.  The economy is showing clear signs of a rebound and our sales staff is loaded and running.  Our new owners, Mood Media, are excited to grow this business we love.

    Is there such a thing as blood type “M”?

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

  • The Next Chapter – Muzak in the ‘40s

    William Benton

    William Benton

    After only five short years in existence, Muzak had amassed a music library of over 5,000 original recordings, larger than any other music entity or record label of the time.  By the late ‘30s the company’s unique means of content distribution, telephonic multiplexing, had also gained wide-spread recognition.  Muzak was ripe for growth and expansion.  One of the most dynamic figures of the 20th century liked what he saw and had the money to grow Muzak’s business.

    Born in 1900, William Benton was an advertising prodigy and at the young age of 29 became co-founder of the New York ad agency Benton & Bowles, one of the biggest ad agencies in the US for 56 years.  He moved to Connecticut in 1932 and served as vice president at the University of Chicago, then as state senator. For several decades he served on the board directors for Encyclopedia Britannica and was the main organizer behind “Voice of America.”  Bill Benton was one of the country’s most respected and well known marketers, politicians, businessmen and socialites in the pre- and post-WWII years.

    With an eye on communication, education, business and serving the public Bill Benton purchased Muzak in 1939.  He immediately set to work on building a business that would have made founder General George Squier, who died in 1934, very, very proud.

    Over the next several blogs (we’ll count after I’m finished), I plan to expose the impact this one man had on our business, our music and our country.  The Muzak journey continues.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • What’s the Buzz?

    Logo Balloons City Center

    With the news last Friday of the completed acquisition of Muzak by Mood Media Corporation, does that mean the end to the 77-year-old company whose name has become a household word?  Should the employees of this so called elevator icon pack up their bags and call it quits?

    Well, if you were to walk into the headquarters of Muzak in Fort Mill, SC you’d think anything but that.  The place looks like a party Mecca.  Welcome banners, hundreds of balloons, festive music from every corner, inside and out, and smiles galore.  Hardly the look you’d expect from a company with a sold sign in the front lawn.

    So here’s the inside scoop.  We’ve been waiting for this event to take place for more years than I can count.  You see, we’ve been owned by financial institutions for over 35 years.  Mood Media is so much more than that.  Lorne Abony, Mood Media CEO and chairman states:  “We are delighted to complete this transformative acquisition, which enables us to become a truly global leader in this space.  We are excited and eager to begin realizing the significant growth opportunities and synergies in a combination that will benefit both our customers and our shareholders.”

    Lorne also announced that Muzak’s home office in Fort Mill will become the North American headquarters for Mood Media.  Management teams from Mood Media and Muzak are already in strategic sessions, exploring revolutionary ways to grow our collective business.

    The buzz at Muzak’s home office is palpable.   Our employees, affiliates, partners and clients are already feeling the vibrations.  The helium in the balloons might only last a few days, but the excitement generated by Mood Media’s acquisition of Muzak could last another 77 years.

    For more information on Mood Media Corporation visit www.moodmedia.com.

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

  • The Deal Is Done!

    Contract Clip ArtMood Media’s acquisition of Muzak, whose suite of brand enhancing music, voice and digital offerings reach more than 100 million people every day, creates a global in-store media provider servicing over 470,000 commercial locations in over 39 countries.

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  • R.E.M. Life’s Rich Pageant

    R.E.M.

    R.E.M.

    For those who are old enough to remember R.E.M.’s beautiful ballad “Fall on Me,” which was the soundtrack to my summer in ’86, Athens, Georgia great R.E.M. are releasing a 25th anniversary re-mastered version of “Life’s Rich Pageant.”  Teaming up with Capitol/I.R.S., this July 12 2CD release will have the works, including 19 previously unreleased demos plus liner notes from music journalist Parke Puterbaugh.

    R.E.M.’s fourth studio release was recorded in John Mellencamp’s Belmont Mall Studio in Indiana and was the first album to achieve Gold certification status.

    Contributed by Alex Espinosa, Audio Architect

  • Cinco de Mayo

    Mexico_flag_largeCinco de Mayo…5th of May…what does this mean?  To me, when I was a child, I just saw my family drinking margaritas and cervezas and having a good time on this date every year.  I also thought this was Mexico’s Independence Day for many years, but it’s not.  This date is actually important to the United States as well; and no, I’m not drinking right now.  You see, Cinco de Mayo is the date when Mexican troops stormed and defeated Napoleon’s French invading army on May 5th, 1862.  Napoleon and France wanted to invade and defeat Mexico so they could get to the vulnerable United States who was already weak from its own Civil War.

    So now you say “Where does the music come into play?” Here is the best part.  After Mexico defeated the French, many Mexican rancheros who fought in the war brought out their acoustic guitars and started singing and playing festive songs in a style that would later be known as Mariachi.  In our Cinco de Mayo program, you are going to be taken to a place where you can let you hair down and either pop open a cold one or say “Salud” with one of your favorite tequilas and yell Viva Mexico!  You’re going to hear artists like Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Gloria Estefan, Flaco Jimenez, Juan Gabriel and many more surprises that’ll have you dancing on the tables.

    Alejandro Gabriel Espinosa, Audio Architect

  • …And Now on to the ‘40s

    Muzak Planned Logo

    Over the last 6 months you’ve heard me wander in awe through Muzak’s first decade in business.  The ‘30s were full of genius, discovery, innovation, talent and music.  Initially, my plan was to write 10 blogs about each of Muzak’s first 3 decades.  But here I am 25 posts in and I haven’t left the 1930s yet.  I got hooked.  The deeper I dug, the more I found:  too many personalities, too many stories, too much music to stop.

    But for the sake of sharing our full story, I’ve simply got to force myself to end my infatuation with Muzak’s earliest days and move now to the 1940s… the decade that turned Muzak into a household name.

    I have to be honest.  My archive peers at Muzak have been anxious for me to crack the seal on the ‘40s because they feel that this was the most exciting decade in Muzak’s illustrious history.  They point to the introduction of franchises into business, our focus on research, marketing and communication, and our impact on WWII and industry as difference makers.  I can’t disagree.

    A few of the same names from the ‘30s helped shape the ‘40s, most significantly executive producer, Ben Selvin.  But it was new owner, William Benton (1939-1957), who emerged as the visionary force who drove the future of Muzak for decades and decades to come.

    So let’s say goodbye to the’30s for now (you know I won’t be able to stay away for long), and let’s venture into the 1940s, the decade that put Muzak on the map.  Do you think I’ll be able to keep it to 10 blogs?  We’ll see.  ‘Til Friday.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Industry’s First Recorded Music Program

    Catchings Letter

    The year was 1934, Muzak’s first year in business.  Located in Cleveland, Muzak offered an exciting new distribution technology, telephonic multiplexing, backed by a growing music library that was becoming the envy of the music industry.  We had our eye on two business opportunities.  The first targeted home owners in the Cleveland area.  Even though Muzak’s advanced technology offered higher sound quality than radio, it was very expensive for a middle class family.  These were The Great Depression years, so only well-to-do residents could afford to subscribe.  Over the first 3 years, many elite customers were signed, but not enough to satisfy investors.

    Muzak’s second target, which was much more successful, was the hospitality business.  Back in the early ‘30s, if a restaurant and hotel wanted music, they needed to hire musicians to play live, which was extremely costly and not always applicable.  Pre-recorded music had never been an option.  Muzak VP Ben Selvin began to produce music programs that created the audio experience most clients were looking for.  This soon became a smart option for hotels and restaurants.  After moving to NYC in 1935, Muzak quickly became the talk of the town.

    In 1936, Muzak President Waddill Catchings wrote a memo to Ben Selvin that outlined their programming recommendations for restaurants.  See above.  This is the carbon from what is believed to be the first official document that outlines a recommended sequence of musical content for business.  This is where it all started for this 77-year-old business that still thrives on putting the right music in the right place for a perfect audio experience.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Quiet but Busy

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    So you haven’t heard about the sale of Muzak to Mood Media for a while?  You aren’t the only one wondering.  Well, the process of getting this deal done is similar to closing a sale on your house… but this one is a whole lot more complex.  The Muzak and Mood Media parties involved in the sale might seem quiet, but they are very busy putting all the pieces together to what amounts to the biggest international event in the business music/media industry in over 75 years.

    The excitement in Muzak’s Home Office in Fort Mill is building every day.  As with any closing, it’s hard to predict when the sale will be final.  However, we can tell you that tentative plans for a closing announcement are being set for the next week or two.

    So stay tuned and we’ll let you know the second we get the scoop.

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