Muzak Holdings, the company responsible for turning the reprehensible “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” into part of the cultural canon, has filed for Chapter 11. Too many of its retail clients have gone belly up in recent months, plus satellite radio was chipping away at its milquetoast market.
The news brought to mind this 2006 Australian study, the best analysis I’ve ever seen of music’s effect on consumer behavior. This bit of the conclusion goes a long way toward explaining why Muzak thrived for so long, despite the fact that everyone professes to hate it:
Slower tempo, lower volume and familiar music results in subjects staying marginally longer at a venue than when the tempo or volume are high, or the music less familiar
In other words, stodgy, slow, soft music warps time to some extent, and makes us linger over the racks of irregular Dockers a few minutes than we otherwise might.
Another Muzak must-read of yore: David Owen’s 2006 New Yorker piece, which doubles as a paean to commercial artistry (in the best sense of the phrase).