• Muzak Celebrates Earth Day 2011

    Green Team

    Muzak Green Team

    Bringing humanity closer to our environment, each year Earth Day is celebrated in more than 175 countries around the world, making it the largest secular holiday on the planet. WOW! 175 out of 195 countries put a day on their calendars to celebrate the Earth. When I first read this information, thank you Wikipedia, I found that number to be staggering, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that my own surprise was a bit surprising. Why shouldn’t 175 countries celebrate the true awesomeness of our little home planet…and more importantly, why shouldn’t every country celebrate it and celebrate the idea of Earth Day, everyday?

    Some may designate those that avidly celebrate environmental causes as tree huggers or hippies, but in reality it was a United States Senator that founded the movement that is now known as Earth Day. In 1969, Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin began a grassroots effort to draw attention to environmental causes after witnessing Capitol Hill’s idle response to the oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, which happened earlier that year. Through the formation of a bi-partisan non-profit, Senator Nelson and co-chairs Representative Paul McCloskey and The Conservation Foundation President Sidney Howe, formed Environmental Teach-In, Inc. Based on the successes of the Teach-In movement from the Vietnam War, Senator Nelson believed that by citing environmental causes as the purpose of Teach-Ins, they could bridge the gap between Congress and the general public. In the fall of 1969 and the early part of 1970, an immense amount of media and public interest was garnered and by April 22nd of that year, the first Earth Day was born. The history of Earth Day and the environmental movement as a whole is rich and rather fascinating, one that could not be wholly displayed in blog format, but its history and future is very much a factor in our daily lives.

    Now in its 41 year, Earth Day has become a holiday acknowledged worldwide. More people inhabit the Earth now than 41 years ago and while we are still using our natural resources at an alarming rate, think about how much worse off we could be if it had not been for those “hippies and tree huggers” back in 1969. Think about how much worse off we WILL be if we don’t help conserve the resources we have now, recycle the items that can be recycled and band together in educating the young and ourselves. On today of all days, make a commitment to ‘Green up’ your life: commit to recycling at home and at work, commit to purchases that promote conservation, commit to planting a tree; . Your commitment is only limited by your imagination.

    Today at Muzak’s Home Office, the Green Team will host the 4th annual Muzak Earth Day event. We have a schedule chock full of happenings to keep our employees entertained, informed and, most importantly, educated. From the ‘live green, work green’ T-shirts and fabulous raffle prizes to the earth-friendly lunch vendor, with a dash of live entertainment between, we’re setting our sights on sparking a passion for a greener world. At Muzak, we have passionate people and passionate people make all the difference in accomplishing the greatest changes.

    Contributed by Abigail Gilmor, Product Consultant, Muzak Green Team

  • Little Brother Crosby Makes His Mark

    Bob Crosby

    Bob Crosby

    In January of 1935, The Dorsey Brothers recorded at the Muzak studios with vocalist Bob Crosby.  Bob was the younger brother of Bing, who was making his own waves in the music industry.  Bob caught the ear of Muzak executive producer Ben Selvin.  Later that same year, Bob formed his own band and Ben booked him for a session on February 26, 1936.  Rooted in Dixieland music, The Bob Crosby Orchestra was filled with legendary musicians, including Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Muggsy Spanier, Matty Matlock, Irving Fazola, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Eddie Miller, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Nappy Lamare, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling, and Ray Bauduc.

    Did you know that baby brother Bob Crosby has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one each for television and recording?  Bing has a few of his own.

    What a band!  Give a listen to one of the 15 recordings The Bob Crosby Orchestra laid down that winter afternoon in Manhattan.  One take is all they needed.  Now, after 75 years we get to listen in.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • Music to My Ears

    Alfredo Antonini

    I love my weekend mornings.  A freshly brewed cup of coffee, dogs at my feet, the Sunday paper and a new collection of digitized tracks from our archives to listen to.  Recordings that haven’t been heard for decades… we figure about 60 years.

    So far we’ve digitized about 600 tracks from our 20,000 song master library, going back to Muzak’s earliest days (the ‘30s and ‘40s).  Thanks to chief digitizer and producer Joe Carter, we receive around 100 newly digitized tracks each month.  I then listen to about 25 of these recordings each weekend. Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

    This morning I decided to venture into a collection of orchestral masters.  Recordings by Xavier Cugat and Alfredo Antonini caught my ear.  These were two highly respected concert orchestra conductors in the ‘30s and ‘40s, with whom Muzak scheduled several sessions during that time period.  They both specialized in classical, musical and opera arrangements, with full accompaniment of strings, brass and rhythm section.

    What continues to amaze me about these recordings is the quality of musicianship and production.  As I’ve mentioned before, these bands and orchestras would show up at the Muzak AMP studio and three hours later would have 15 finished tracks, all at the highest level of fidelity for the time.  Unheard of today!

    So, are you ready to hear one of these recordings?  I chose a whimsical track recorded on October 18, 1940 by Alfredo Antonini and his Concert Orchestra.  It’s called “The Arkansas Traveler”.  You’ll recognize the melody.  Enjoy.

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • The Elevator Music Company?

    DSC05836

    I’ve been digging through our historic archives over the past 4 years looking for any real reference to elevators.  Sure, we’ve all learned about music’s role in soothing the nerves of those early elevator riders in the 1920s and ‘30s.  But I have not found any internal documentation that links Muzak with providing that service in our initial days.  Not that we didn’t, I just couldn’t find any evidence.  I’ve located all kinds of information about our early efforts in building business in the fields of hospitality, restaurants, the workplace and factories, but no specific evidence tying us to the elevator business.  I’ve looked through 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s marketing material, board of director’s books, memos, you name it, but I have found nothing.  Sure, people have written about it for years, but the evidence in our archives just isn’t there.

    So why does everybody know Muzak as the company that delivers “elevator music?”

    What I do know is that by the mid-1950s Muzak began to move away from recording popular artists laying down their own music.  Instead we started recording studio musicians and orchestras playing Muzak arrangements of pop songs and standards played in an easy listening style.  Mood music was extremely popular in the ‘50s and our research clearly demonstrated that soothing instrumentals, programmed in a certain fashion, would improve productivity and decrease absenteeism in the workplace. Over the next 3 decades our music staff dedicated themselves to the production of various styles of mood music.  This soon became known to the public as “elevator music.”  Whether heard in the workplace, a restaurant, at a hotel or in the elevator, the description became universal.  Regardless if Muzak had produced it or not, by the mid-‘60s all mood music was “Muzak” and Muzak was the “elevator music” company.

    It’s been almost 30 years since we last recorded instrumental music.  Since then we’ve licensed a vast library of almost 3 million tracks from all the music industry’s top major and indie artists.  Muzak creates over 400 music programs for over 250,000 business locations, featuring every genre of music known to man.  It’s been 30 years since you’ve heard “The Girl from Ipanema” by the Muzak Orchestra playing at your local restaurant.

    But the elevator lives on … and so does Muzak.  Over the last 24 hours alone there were over 2,000 mentions of Muzak in the media, with 1,500 of those referring to “elevator music”.  Someone once said that there is no such thing as bad press.

    So, how about one of those campy 1950s treasures right now?  This baby hasn’t been heard in over 30 years.

    14th floor please!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • 8 Hours – 8 Songs?

    Board2What happens when you gather 4 ultra-creative artists into a college music studio for 8 hours?  Well, the plan is to write and record 8 songs, then perform them live the next day.

    Musicians Ben Folds, Damian Kulash of OK Go and Amanda Palmer, solo artist and former singer for The Dresden Dolls, plan to lock themselves in a studio at the Berklee College of Music with award winning author Neil Gaiman.  The session will be broadcast online and the music will be performed live at one of the sessions the next day during the Rethink Music Conference in Boston, and released via Bandcamp.com.  Proceeds from the first week of downloads will be donated to Berklee City Music, an organization linked to Berklee College of Music that provides age appropriate music education for underprivileged youth.

    If you have read Bruce’s “Blogging the Archives,” you will know that once upon a time, 8 songs in three hours was not a big deal, but those artists weren’t writing the songs, they were only recording.  Today it can take months and even years to get an album produced.  Folds, Kulash, Palmer and Gaiman have their work cut out for them, but we wish them the best.  As our Heart & Soul Foundation attests, we at Muzak are passionate about helping keep music education healthy.  And with this group of artists, I can’t wait to buy the CD.

    The 3 day Rethink Music Conference, held April 25th-27th, will also tackle hard questions about copyright law, fostering art in a technologically changing world, and the music business in an internet centered world.

  • A More Sustainable Muzak

    Natural worldMusic has a way of transcending space and time.  Whether it’s a reminiscing thought about a cool day in May when you first heard that certain classic or the lyric that’s been stuck in your head for the last week, music has staying power – in a word, music is sustainable.  No one understands this philosophy better than Muzak.  Each and everyday, Muzak beams out over 300 music programs to its business clients, creating those reminiscent thoughts and stuck-in-your-head lyrics.  Currently, the lyrics of KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” are repeating in my head, courtesy of a regional client’s latest TV commercial.  Understanding the timelessness of music isn’t where Muzak draws the line with regard to sustainability practices.  In 2007, under the guidance of Muzak’s Executive Board, a committee dubbed the Green Team was formed. The members helped the company devise practices that would support a greener, more efficient workplace.

    In the 4 years since its inception, the Green Team has revised Muzak’s best practices, allowing for a cleaner, greener world.  Small changes can create a big impact while gearing employees up for larger, more expansive campaigns.  After all, it’s baby steps that pave the way to the greatest change.  The Green Team understood this and made its first order of business the removal of Styrofoam cups in all Muzak offices.  At first, there was push back because it is easier to grab a new cup each time you get a hot cup of joe; the Green Team persevered.  Members held mug drives, so that employees could bring in mugs from home and leave them in the kitchenette areas of the offices.

    From there, other small steps were born, each making a grander impact on environmental consciousness, until the most daunting of tasks was tackled… implementing the paperless sales order process.  Until the Green Team made the antiquated paper sales order process its mission, written forms were seen as imperative to all workflow processes.  But paper has its drawbacks.  Besides being environmentally un-friendly, the fax machine that receives the sales order could be on the fritz, or even worse, the paper forms could get lost or misplaced.  While it took some time to get 1000+ employees on board, the paperless sales order process is now the norm, leaving many of us to wonder how we ever operated without it.

    For any company undertaking the task of making their business more earth friendly, I applaud you.  It’s called environmental responsibility for a reason. The journey may be long and arduous but by taking small steps, you’ll see that you WILL be making a cleaner, greener world.  In the words of KT Tunstall, her song still stuck in my head, “And I feel like walking the world, like walking the world”…and what a beautiful world it will be!

    Muzak’s Green Accomplishments:

    • Elimination of Styrofoam products from all office locations.
    • Increase of office temperature by 1 degree, saving an average of 10% on yearly energy usage.
    • Implementation of a recycle program for: mixed paper (cardboard, paper, and magazines), aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastics and all obsolete or unusable equipment.
    • All Home Office lighting has been replaced with energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL).
    • Sponsorship of Adopt-A-Highway program – cleaning up the stretch of highway outside of our Home Office.
    • Paperless Sales Order process, since its implementation, this has resulted in a 70% savings of paper.  As of 2.1.11 the paperless process has saved approximately 2950 reams of paper.  To put that in green terms, we’ve saved approximately 130 trees, 7.5 tons of paper, 22.5 cubic yards of landfill, and 153,750 gallons of water.
    • Implementation of Café Wednesday lunch events where a food vending client sells lunches to employees at the Home Office.  Because of Café Wednesday events, Muzak team members save 43 gallons of fuel, 850 pounds of CO2 emissions, 2 barrels of oil, and $116 in fuel costs when they choose to purchase lunch from the food vendor and skip going out to lunch.
    • GPS tracking on all service vehicles, allowing for the closest technician to visit a client for service related issues.
    • Hosting of quarterly recycling drives for electronics.

    Four years of hard work at finding new ways to operate has finally begun to pay off and both the environment and Muzak are better for it.  And of course the Green Team is glad that our passion has affected so many changes.

    Contributed by Abigail Gilmor, Muzak Green Team Member, Product Consultant

  • More Dorsey Studio Time

    Tommy Dorsey

    Tommy Dorsey

    Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra came to Muzak’s AMP studio in Manhattan on November 11, 1935 to lay down several tracks for the one year old music broadcast company. A chum of Muzak executive producer Ben Selvin, Tommy Dorsey found himself recording for Ben often because of their friendship, and it was crazy to turn down a paying gig during The Depression.

    If you’ve been following this blog you know that we’re having fun featuring several never before released tracks from our historic Muzak library. Today’s recording is of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with their arrangement of “Sing Before Breakfast,” featuring Cliff Weston on vocals.

    Notice that, as with many of the songs recorded in the ‘30s, the vocals don’t get introduced until deep into the song.  Back in those days it was more important to feature the band than the singer.  Well, at least most band leaders felt that way.  Enjoy!

    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director

  • The Numbers are Staggering

    Muzak Home Office

    As most of you have heard, Mood Media, a Canadian based, international business media company, is in the process of acquiring Muzak.  I took a little time this weekend to go over the numbers created by the combination of our two companies, and they are staggering.  Muzak already has the largest footprint in the US.  Now our combined presence internationally is amazing.

    Let’s explore some of those numbers (estimated):

    Muzak now Mood Media & Muzak after closing
    300,000 locations served 500,000 locations served
    7 country footprint 39 country footprint
    500 brands serviced 850 brands serviced
    $250 million in revenue $400 million in revenue
    $60 million in EBITDA $100 million in EBITDA
    2.9 million music tracks in library 4.5 million music tracks in library
    870,000 licensed music tracks 1.7 million licensed music tracks
    20,000 original recordings 30,000 original recordings

    The news marks a significant upcoming milestone in our 77 year history here at Muzak.  Our Fort Mill Home Office is buzzing because of the potential opportunities this brings to the company and its employees.  We still have a month or two before closing, but the excitement is real today.

    Click HERE to see Muzak’s official Press Release.

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

  • Did You Hear the News?

    Image courtesy Brandon Schauf

    So what’s happening at Muzak you ask?  You’ve probably seen the headlines…

    March 24, 2010 (Charlotte, NC)—Muzak Holdings LLC (“Muzak”), a premier provider of music, messaging and video for business, today confirmed that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Mood Media Corporation (TSX:MM/ LSE AIM:MM), a leading in-store media specialist, for an enterprise value of up to approximately US$345 million.

    Yes, BIG news for Muzak and for our industry.  But what does it all mean?

    Since 1934, Muzak has been owned by a multitude of companies.   Initially the concept of Muzak was financed by the utility and telephone conglomerate, North American Company.  They had the music distribution vehicle (electric and phone lines), so it made sense.  In the late ‘30s Warner Brothers purchased Muzak because of their need for a movie soundtrack library.  William Benton, a marketing mega star, senator, founder of the Encyclopedia Britannica and visionary for Voice of America, owned Muzak from the early ‘40s thru 1957. He saw Muzak as a vehicle to offer communications solutions worldwide.  Muzak’s support of WWII both internationally and in the US delivered on Benton’s vision, as our growth continued.

    The Wrather Corp. purchased Muzak in 1957, followed by Teleprompter in 1972, then Westinghouse in the early ‘80s.

    Since the mid ‘80s, Muzak has been under the ownership of a series of financial institutions, including The Field Corporation, Centre Partners, ABRY Partners, and most recently Silver Point Capital.

    The pending acquisition of Muzak by Mood Media signals a huge change for us.  After 25 years of control by financial institutions, we will become part of a company that shares our passion to expand the business that we have loved for 77 years.

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

    If you missed the Press Release it is available HERE on our website.

  • Ol’ Man River

    Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

    Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

    In 1927, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the musical “Show Boat”, featuring the now Grammy winning tune “Ol’ Man River.”  In that same year, Glen Gray’s popular Orange Blossom Band was playing in Toronto at the Casa Loma Hotel.  It was there that they first arranged and performed “Ol’ Man River.”  It immediately became a mainstay in their set list for years to come.

    On February 25, 1935, Glen Gray and his Orchestra stepped into Muzak’s studio in Manhattan to record this and 12 other songs.  It’s easy to see why they played “Ol’ Man River” for so many years; a great song with a great arrangement, played by a great band.  Enjoy this never before released recording of “Ol’ Man River” by the Glen Gray Orchestra.


    Contributed by Bruce McKagan, Muzak Archives Director