The Surprising History of Elevator Music

Calm your nerves, boost your productivity and get you to spend more money…

Elevator music is some powerful stuff. And it has a surprising (and interesting!) history.

Read on to find out how elevator music, also known as a genre of music called “Muzak,”  has been used to boost productivity, influence behaviour and increase customer spending habits… Plus how it ended up in lifts today.


The history of Muzak: From the factory floor to elevator music

Born on the factory floor, what we now know as ‘elevator music’ was originally designed to help boost worker productivity.

Inventor and US Army Signal Corps officer, Major General George Owen Squire, is the fellow to thank for the smooth sounds of elevator music.

Also the inventor of telephone carrier multiplexing, Squire had been working on an alternative to radio, which at the time still had a long way to come. Radio then was expensive to run and set up, so Squire saw an opportunity to create an electric alternative. Unfortunately for Squire, the kinks in the radio systems were worked out before he could finish his project, but this didn’t deter him. Instead he shifted his focus to supplying music to factories and businesses.

Squire was interested in the ability for music to increase productivity levels in the factories and influence the employees moods and emotions. He created a musical technique known as “Stimulus Progression” in which music would incrementally increase in tempo, noise level and pace. It would run in 15 minute blocks of music followed by silence. This was done so in order to prevent listener fatigue and maximise the impact of the music.

Squire ended up creating a genre in itself, which he named Muzak. Muzak developed and evolved over the years, making its way into shopping centres, doctor’s offices and even outer space, all with the intention of influencing human behaviour. In shopping centres, Muzak is used to slow customers down, increasing their time spent in the store in the hopes they’ll spend more money. In the latter two examples, Muzak has been used to help keep people calm and relaxed.


elevator music melbourne
“Muzak please.” Did you know that NASA would play what we now know as elevator music for astronauts in space to keep them calm?


How Muzak made its way into lifts

So how did Muzak gain enough traction to make its way into its now most recognisable application?

Because lifts were once thought of as a nerve-wracking experience for people, Muzak was brought in to help create a more relaxing ride. While it may seem silly now, back then, lifts were not commonplace and most people had never experienced travelling in one before.

And as it turns out, this idea stuck! Muzak remains in most elevators around the world because of its ambient properties. Think about the last time you travelled abroad to a luxurious hotel… music influences amplifies the calming experience of taking a holiday or helps relax you on a busy business trip.


Modern day Muzak

You may be surprised to find out that Muzak has had some pretty significant influences on modern day music. Perhaps you recognise the name Brian Eno. Even if you haven’t heard the name, you’ve definitely heard his music. He has  worked on some of the most well known songs of all time, alongside  some incredibly famous artists. David Bowie, U2, Coldplay, Slowdive and more, we have Eno to thank for some of their greatest hits.

Bonus: Listen to some of his most famous collaborations here.

So what does Brian Eno have to do with elevator music? Eno actually created a genre of music, known as ambient music, which has been incredibly influential for other major musicians. Eno’s biggest inspiration? You guessed it – elevator music!


We have Squire’s elevator music and its influence on Brian Eno to thank for some of the biggest hits of today.


Music for Your home or commercial lift

Create the ultimate relaxing experience at home with music resemblant of a Bali getaway.
Or enhance your team’s productivity by playing music on their way up to their office – (yes, there’s music proven to do this)!

It goes without saying that if you want to play music inside your home lift or commercial elevator you can!

So set up the right soundtrack for your space today. If you have any other questions or want to experience one of our demo lifts, come and visit us at our Melbourne Showroom or send us a message here.




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