Muzak Bankrupt

Ever acoustically bankrupt, Muzak,the makers of elevator music, have declared themselves financially bankrupt by filing for Chapter 11. The company’s unique style of precisely limited in tempo and dynamics and unswervingly bland music may not be long for this world. Office workers and elevator riders, rejoice.

Muzak Files for Bankruptcy [The Street] (Photo: Grevel)


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  1. RandomHookup says:

    The Ray Conniff Singers are quite disappointed.

  2. raincntry says:

    Artistically they’ve been bankrupt for years now….

  3. morgasco says:

    Thank god, I remember back to my retail days of hearing 4 acoustical versions of every John Denver song, along with 3 months of holiday music… Nightmares are still with me, along with the urge to listen to the smooth rock station at times.

  4. Angryrider says:

    How the hell is this possible?! I thought Muzak was like coffee stirrers and post-it notes, they never go out of style. Man they could’ve saved some money by hiring lowly musicians.

    Now where’s my Helter Skelter elevator music?

    • David Brodbeck says:

      @Angryrider: They face competition from digital cable, believe it or not.

      I used to work in casinos. When I started, they had Muzak feeds (Which they mostly used to play 80s hits, not conventional “elevator music.”) But once Comcast added a bunch of music channels to their digital cable, they dropped the Muzak service and just wired an extra cable box into the PA system.

    • Ayanami says:

      This isn’t surprising.

      1. Buy cheap 2GB music player of choice.
      2. Buy (or “find”) music you want at your retail location cheap.
      3. Save money.

  5. rpm773 says:

    The oddness that this news coincides with the release of Microsoft Songsmith is not lost on me!

  6. raincntry says:

    Musically they’ve been bankrupt for years.

  7. Tiber says:

    I guess it’s not that surprising when you think about it. Most of the people in the higher-up floors are leaving their office via golden parachutes.

  8. trrwilson says:

    I used to work at a restaurant with a Muzak setup, except that it played actual music. I think it was a satellite radio rig or something, we had about 50 stations, all of which were cleaned up for mass market retail.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @trrwilson: yeah, at the YMCA where i work, we use Muzak for our atmosphere music…
      and it’s real music. it’s along the lines of Sirius or XM in technology/design/implementation/quality…
      in fact, there is no real difference (although i’m not sure that XM/Sirius sells wide-use licenses like what we’re using)

      • theblackdog says:

        @Gstein: Sirius/XM do have a setup for businesses, I think it’s that you get all their music channels only for some monthly price.

    • karmaghost says:

      @trrwilson: yeah, we have a Muzak system where I work and it plays “real” music, too. At about 11pm (our store is open 24hrs) it switches over to more “pop” music. Sometimes it doesn’t switch back in the morning and all day the music is (slightly) more tolerable.

  9. JGKojak says:

    To quote Dennis Miller when Love Boat was cancelled…

    “If there was a God, Chevy would have been reading this story to you.”

  10. econobiker says:

    As another casualty of 1980’s grocery store muzak, I rejoice…

  11. legwork says:


    The best thing about that company was the name, though I suppose we can still hurl it abusively at bad bands.

    Wait, how can they go bankrupt? What were their costs? Or did all their lobotomized musicians finally off themselves?

    • redskull says:

      @legwork: Wait, how can they go bankrupt? What were their costs? Or did all their lobotomized musicians finally off themselves?

      Well, they have their own satellite that beams music into their subscriber’s stores. Outer space hardware probably accounts for a good percentage of their overhead.

      I worked at a grocery store in the 80s and some days the Muzak got to me so bad that I thought I might cry. One day while taking out the trash I noticed a little Muzak antennae on the roof. I searched around in the stock room and found the Muzak receiver box, hidden behind some crates. I unscrewed the jack, and voila! No more Muzak. It was off for about 2 blissful months before one of the managers finally noticed and plugged it back in.

  12. downwithmonstercable says:

    This is wierd, I thought the word Muzak was some sort of slang term used for elevator music. I had no idea it was a real company.

    How do you promote yourself at a future employer when you have Muzak on your resume?

    • B says:

      @downwithmonstercable: Created music listened too by hundreds of millions of people that enlists strong responses in many listeners and is instantly recognizable.

    • MsAnthropy says:


      I am so glad to know I’m not the only one who only found out literally seconds ago that Muzak is an actual company. I glanced at this headline earlier and thought “what kind of dumbass would call their company Muzak?!”, then read it and realized that “Muzak” is not just a sneery slang term for “that shitty music they play in elevators”, but the actual name of the company that provides said music.

      I mentioned it to my husband, in a “look at this, who knew that was actually the name of the company?!?!?” kind of way and he seemed confused as to how I could not know that.

      Anyway. A world without Muzak (be it an actual purveyor of elevator music, or a generic term for elevator music) can only be a better one.

  13. dwhuntley says:

    I’m not sure if I would use the term “rejoice” when a group of people are losing there job.

  14. Tekneek says:

    Muzak provides more styles of music than one. They have a bunch of commercial free channels of music. There are many restaurants that have used them for their ambient music, and few of those styles are what you would call “elevator music.”

  15. Garfunkle says:

    The real question is how did they get in debt to the tune of $100 to $500 million and still only have $50,000 in assets? What did they spend it all on? I have a hard time believing the Muzak head honchos know how to party hard enough to burn that much money.

    • esoterica says:

      @Garfunkle: I was wondering exactly the same thing. How on Earth could they have accumulated $500M in debt? And $371M just to U.S. Bank?? What kind of blithering moron would ever consider loaning that kind of money to a company that had that kind of balance sheet?? Just one more bank that deserves to fail.

      • Stanwell says:

        @esoterica: I would guess that their major expense is licensing rights to the music. When i worked for KB Toys (got out the first time they were in bankruptcy) we’d get a CD once a month from Muzak. It was always a strange mix of the latest and greatest teeny bopper songs, kids’ songs, and songs that weren’t even all that popular when they were first released. I always figured that at least some of the songs were on there because of low licensing fees. As for their balance sheet…i wonder how many of the big name retailers and restaurants that have either closed stores or totally folded were Muzak clients.

  16. monkey33 says:

    There’s actually an interview in “Hard Times” with the guy who helped invent Muzak. Funny, they survived the first depression. . .

  17. ryan89 says:

    I used to work in a job that had Muzak and yeah we all made fun of it. I quit and moved on and now my job has NO MUSIC. The environment is sterile and they forbid headphones to listen to your own music. I never realized how much I loved Muzak until I no longer had it.

    • P_Smith says:

      @ryan89: I worked in a place where some people wanted music, some didn’t and some wanted their music, not anyone else’s.

      Such situations have no perfect solutions, but the choice of the boss to put a classical radio station on at a dull roar got the fewest complaints of things tried.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      I used to work at a job where you could have headphones and listen to anything you wanted. Now I got nothin’. It was a suck job however, so I don’t miss it.

      The deli I worked at in CA had Muzak, and there was this old couple that would come in in the afternoons and ask that we turn it down to inaudible levels. I loved it when they would show up!

  18. bohemian says:

    I am sad anyone is losing their job yet rejoicing that Muzak might go away.

    Stores really should rethink their noise levels. I was in the local Target during a power glitch. They were running on back up power so only the registers and some lights were running. It was so quiet and peaceful even with the store being full of people. It made me see how stress inducing the noise level in stores normally is. Even worse is that Target on any given day is much less stress inducing than Walmart.

    • ryan89 says:

      @bohemian: I’ve always thought Targets were only noisy by electronics because of the stupid “ads” they have on repeat on all the TVs. Other than that its a very quiet environment.
      I don’t think Walmart has music either, but maybe I can’t hear it over all the screaming kids and the million “bloop” noises a minute coming from the registers.

    • smallestmills says:

      As a worker in a mall store, we like the music LOUD. Especially if one cashiers. For us, it makes the day go a little faster and it seems more active.

    • lockdog says:

      @bohemian: Stressed people spend more money.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @bohemian: re:walmart-
      last time i was in there, (a few weeks before christmas) we heard someone complaining to her coworkers over the loudspeaker, something along the lines of “oh thanks guys, really nice leaving me up here…” went on for a while (it seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably closer to 1)
      i asked one of the stockers who that was, and why she was so bitchy, and he replied with something along the lines of “she’s working at walmart right before Christmas- wouldn’t you be pissed too?”

  19. madanthony says:

    Did they run into financial problems because all their executives fell asleep from listening to their own product?

  20. ajlei says:

    We had Muzak at my old job and I really didn’t mind it… I got pretty familiar with classic rock, but it kept the mind-numbingly boring days going (seriously: I worked from 9-5 by myself, and customers rarely came in.. something had to play in my head besides my inner monologue)

  21. ahoy-captain says:

    Wow… this post is full of ignorance. Most of Muzak’s business came from retail stores playing real, contemporary music mixes — not elevator music. I remember reading a really long, fascinating article about how the mixes were scientifically selected.

  22. Skankingmike says:

    my company cut their Muzak budget cost this past year that was close to 1400 stores i’d imagine that’s a large cut in their income. :P

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @Skankingmike: I’ve never understood why stores don’t just buy a compilation CD and put it into their PA system, or tune it to some easy listening radio station.

      • Skankingmike says:

        @downwithmonstercable: my company just went with quiet :P

        it’s quite eerie though i generally like to go on Youtube and find horrible 80’s music to blast :P

      • varro says:

        @downwithmonstercable: Royalties.

        If BMI or ASCAP catches you using the music, you run the risk of being sued for royalties – Muzak and other subscription music services put the royalties to artists’ societies into their fees.

      • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

        @downwithmonstercable: If you play music in a public space like that, then you also have to pay ASCAP and/or BMI to cover performance royalties. I’d imagine that a Muzak license had all that built in.

  23. HungryMohican says:

    Awesome New Yorker article on them from 2006: []

  24. jmndos says:

    This may be a band thing. If you kill one thing, usually a more powerful, more obnoxious thing replaces it.

    Hopefully they will not play Soulja Boy or something black/stupid instead.

  25. MyPetFly says:

    If an elevator falls in the woods and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it still play Muzak?

  26. Chris Lehr says:

    Thank GOODNESS.

    Like you said – in a recession, things that suck DIE.

  27. savdavid says:

    Sometimes there is a ray of light in a recession.

  28. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    And up until now I had been considering starting my own competing Muzak company, marketing contemporary hits sensitively performed by a sliding trombone and drum set.

    (anyone here know how to evoke gentle tones on a trombone?)

  29. quail says:

    I was in Target last week. There was no music in there. How refreshing!! But I also noticed how low their stock of merchandise was and I hear now that Target is in bad shape financially. Coincidence?

  30. Bs Baldwin says:

    We have had muzak for like 6 years or so at my work, the music selection has gotten way better through the years. Before it was the music that tacky 70’s diners (I live in jersey) would play. Now it is almost acceptable weak-ass Kenny G music. I don’t know how my company pays muzak, we have at least 20 cds at my branch.

  31. loueloui says:

    Good Riddance! I read an article about them some years ago where they employ Psychologists in order to develop music sounds and patterns which alter your thinking. Essentially this is a petty form of mind control. I think that is so completely unethical.

  32. bvita says:

    Is this the day the Musak died?

  33. akronharry says:

    Sigh….no more toe tapping to the songs made by the Carpenters! I guess I will just waste-away!

  34. p75hmsa says:

    FYI, I’ve worked with muzac systems. Most of the older ones I saw were nothing but dish network recievers set @ “easy listening” and an amplifier.

  35. mariospants says:

    People seem so surprised that: a) Muzak is an actual, real business and b) they didn’t go out of business sooner. The thing is, you can’t just throw a CD (even self-mixed) onto your PA system because if the record companies ever found out, you’d get sued Napster-style. Muzak did all of the work for you so that you’d get safe, clean, sanitized music that wouldn’t offend grandma or shock the kids, cost less (because they were only licensing the sheet music, which is probably 1/30th the cost and because they didn’t employ vocal talent) and they took care of the licensing issues. Of course, they had to change with the times to “add value” to their product and I’ll bet that a few music execs are wringing their hands that this is happening because it opens the door to abuse by store owners.

    Guess they’ll make it up by sending their copyright laywers door-to-door making sure major retailers’ music is legit.

  36. P_Smith says:

    Back in the 1970s, Ted F**knugget (a/k/a Ted Nugent) once offered $10 million to buy Muzak so he could “turn it off”.

  37. Tex says:

    I work for a large bank and we actually use Muzak to not only provide in-store music (not elevator music at all, there are many channels to choose from including hard rock and contemporary hits) but they also take care of satellite TV for our stores that have queue line TV’s.

  38. FrankenPC says:

    I was hoping the stimulus bill would include stringing up the Musak board of directors. Oh well…can’t have everything.

  39. Plates says:

    From the back of a 1970s Muzak album:
    “MUZAK has undergone a striking metamorphosis since it’s pioneering days in developing concepts of environmental music. Today, as specialists in the physiological and psychological applications of music, MUZAK is concerned with developments in vigilance and human factors research, and of course, the effects of scientifically planned music on work productivity and efficiency, among others.”