Is 'piped music' really the 'scourge of modernity'?

We recently saw an interesting article on the Telegraph website on ‘piped’ Muzak. In it, Jake Wallis Simons argues that music played in customer facing business premises is “the scourge of modernity” that chases customers away. Wallis Simons is fairly scathing going as far as to say that “piped music is siphoning poo into our brains all the time”. The extensive comments section below the article shows that many people agree. This should be a serious worry for any business playing ‘piped music’ and it’s encouraged us to create this group.

Here at Open Ear we agree in principle with the argument put forward; we would happily abolish ugly background music. It is impossible however, and rightfully so, to cut off all piped music – as is demanded by lobbyists such as Pipedown.

Musicians rely on you hearing their music to make a living. Without public performance of music (and that includes recorded performance) musicians cannot reach a wider audience. At a time when illegal downloading is costing musicians money, performance and songwriter royalties from public airplay are an extremely important income stream.

Real background noise is a real nuisance. The noise of traffic, shouting, coughing, or chairs scraping on floors are constant. Do we really want to tune in to these atonal distractions?

Music can play an important part in a business or brands image, attracting customers and representing brand identity.

What we feel is missing is a discussion of music done right. We believe that businesses, and their customers, should have the choice of how ‘background’ music impacts their lives. We want ‘background’ music that fits its surroundings, the brand image portrayed, the customer base and even the mood of the day. Music is a force of social and cultural life and for millennia we have shared and experienced it together. We believe that generic, ugly background music is starting to put people off the music of everyday life.

We believe that we need to discuss how music is used, where and when it is used and, just as importantly, what music is used. Music that fits can be positive. For that to happen we must consider acoustics and architecture, musicians and royalties, customers and staff, culture, psychology and shared space.

We're also discussing this over on our LinkedIn group.

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