Inside the Booming Business of Background Music

Inside the Booming Business of Background Music

The Guardian, 2018

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Some traditional retailers are trying to recapture profits lost to online sales by offering a richer experience to shoppers – complete with distinctive architecture, ambiance, lighting, and, of course, music. But make no mistake – this isn’t the Muzak that haunted the elevators of your youth. Companies like Mood Media and Music Concierge have elevated background music to an art form. Jake Huyler’s delightful Guardian article will guide you to phenomena that usually lurk just below our awareness.


In the 1920s, George Owen founded a company that provided music to businesses, exploiting his discovery of how to transmit sound through wire. Renamed Muzak in the 1950s, the company published a report stating that using their music led to a “an 18.6% increase in production and a 37% decrease in the number of errors made by office employees.” While those findings may sound exaggerated, modern researchers can vouch for the idea behind them; music is powerful and can influence perception and behavior. Businesses have been trying to harness that power ever since. A 1997 study found that people were...

About the Author

Jake Huyler is a writer based in London. He covers music, culture, arts and entertainment, and politics.

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