Muzak fades away

elevatorIn one last-ditch effort to free itself from the shackles of its dreaded stigma — that the company is the provider of the music world’s most loathsome genre, elevator music — Muzak is changing its name. More accurately, its parent company, Mood Media, announced yesterday that it is consolidating its operations under a single brand, Mood.

Muzak was founded in 1934 and initially provided background music in hotels and restaurants. It later began marketing a scientifically designed program to increase workers’ productivity and make shoppers more comfortable. Muzak filed for Chapter 11 in 2009  after struggling amid competition from digital music providers such as SIRIUS XM Radio; it completed a restructuring and exited bankruptcy in 2010.

Canada-based Mood Media, a provider of in-store media, acquired Muzak in 2011 for $345 million. It did so to combine Muzak’s sound system and musical capabilities with its own in-store media operations (which uses a mix of music, visual, and scent media) to cater to more than 470,000 commercial locations in almost 40 countries. It later added Muzak rival DMX into the mix, acquiring that similar business in 2012 for $86.1 million.

Mood, which calls itself a “sensory marketing services” company, now has divisions for signs, interactive displays, and scents. The firm has grown to reach 150 million people each day at more than 500,000 locations around the world, including big name retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and PETCO.

Mood’s efforts are squarely aimed at helping physical stores provide better experiences that can draw in more customers, many of whom now prefer online shopping over venturing to brick-and-mortar retailers. A big part of the company’s strategy is creating a more interactive shopping experience at stores, including providing kiosks that let shoppers try on clothes virtually. However, background music services, including Muzak and DMX, still generate about 90 percent of the company’s sales.

Years ago Muzak replaced much of its catalog of canned, instrumental versions of songs with radio-like playlists, complete with lyrics sung by the original artists. Despite this shift, it’s a safe bet that people will always associate Muzak with cheesy elevator music, most likely the primary reason behind Mood’s decision to retire the brand. Ted Nugent once famously wanted to buy Muzak so he could destroy it. He must be smiling today.

Amy Schein

Amy Schein is an Industry Specialist at First Research, where she covers various aspects of the media industry. She earned her BS and MA in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Amy on Twitter.

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