4. Sonic Branding: An Introduction

13 years ago our CEO Daniel M Jackson wrote a book that marked a seminal moment in the history of sonic branding. The book is called ‘Sonic Branding: An Introduction’.

This week's extract delves into the history of Muzak; a system that would deliver music to listeners without the use of radio and pave the way for today's in-store and background music culture...


Jingle all the way

In the 1930s, General George Squire patented a method of delivering music down telegraph wires. General George’s invention was extremely hi-tech for the times and when he came to name the company under which he would market his product, he took inspiration from his favourite existing technology brand - Kodak, and the essence of his offering - music. The composite of the two words gave him and the world the phenomenon of Muzak, which has since become a generic for a certain genre of easy-listening music, often heard in hotel lobbies. According to the official history of the company, which today boasts the largest listenership of any music medium in the world, Muzak was widely employed in American industry throughout the 1940s to manipulate the feelings of factory and office workers. It soothed the minds and was said to enhance production.

Muzak’s ‘killer application’ however, was handed to it by the architects and builders of the great steel skyscrapers of the 1920s and 1930s. Buildings had never been built that high before and people at the time naturally scared of getting in new-fangled elevators that took them up to 100 storey’s above the city. Muzak was fed into the elevators as it had a calming effect, taking passengers’ minds off the fact that they were dangling perilously above the city. The soothing sounds became famous, known the world over as ‘elevator music’.