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Muzak – altering your mood at University Towne Center, Fashion and Mission Valley

In one ear and out the other

“I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion." - Image by David Diaz
“I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion."

Muzak is not music at all. It is not an entertainment. It is soft, beguiling, unctu­ous noise with a specific purpose. It is the soothing voice of corporate America humming "Shenandoah" as you punch in at Ekstrom Industries in Kearny Mesa, cash a paycheck at Crocker Bank. or wait for a burger and Coke at McDonald's. Muzak is "Guadalupe" piped into a crowded elevator in the Security Pacific building downtown. It is "Fascination" seeping into the subconscious while you search for nutmeg in the Safeway spice aisle. Muzak is "scientifically planned musical programming" designed to put you in the mood to worry less, spend more, or work hard.

Each song is assigned a "stimulus value.” and a Muzak Mood Rating. "Baretta's Theme" might rate a six-plus. while "Go Away, Little Girl" might only be a three-plus.

More than 100,000 organizations in over 25 countries employ Muzak systems. More than 100 million people hear it every working day. There is Muzak at IBM, AT&T, Xerox, and General Motors. There is Muzak at Caterpillar Tractor. J.C. Penney, Gerbers, and EJ. Korvettes. There is Muzak at the White House.

Like many successful enterprises, Muzak has a little-known history and a colorful founding father. In March of 1922. Brigadier General George Owen Squier. World War I veteran and former chief signal officer of the United States Army, marched into the New York of­fices of the North American Company, a huge public utility holding company. Squier, a man who had actually flown with the Wright brothers, had an idea to discuss, and a patented plan to present. He wanted to use existing electric power lines to transmit programs of news, music, lectures, general entertainment, and advertising into private homes, for a fee. North American's executives loved the idea, and the utility quickly had a license to broadcast their "piggyback" signal to potential subscribers via power lines throughout the United States. Wired . Radio. Incorporated, was formed.

A subsidiary of North American named Associated Music Publishers, Incorpo­rated. swiftly grabbed up the American rights to a large number of classical and semiclassical compositions. Since live entertainment was impractical for the purposes of Wired Radio, the concept of prerecorded programming was born. After experiments on Staten Island. New York, and further research and testing in Ampere. New Jersey. North American fi­nally launched a full-scale operation in 1934 under their newly formed sub­sidiary. Muzak Corporation. Music and news came into the homes of subscribers in Cleveland. Ohio, over the same lines which brought electric power and light.

But by this time. Marconi’s "wireless" had taken hold, and commercial radio, already a proven success, was here to stay. In addition, the technical problems of transmitting over electric power lines had become enormous. So Muzak took another approach. The firm concentrated on transmitting what they called “func­tional music" to hotels and restaurants, this time over telephone lines instead of electric power lines. The company in­ vested in new and durable, vertically en­ graved "vinylite" 33-1/3 r.p.m. discs on which to make their recordings.

In 1936 you could dine at the fashiona­ble Stork Club, or the posh Chambord in New York City, and chat about Mayor LaGuardia while the background strains ' of "There's a Small Hotel.” or "The Night is Young and You're So Beautiful" came in on Muzak’s "six-to-nine" program.

Muzak was also interested in the influ­ ence of music in work areas. In 1937 a pair of British industrial psychologists.

S. Wyatt and J.N. Langdon. published the results of a study conducted in England and titled Fatigue ami Boredom in Repetitive Work. The report's conclusions regarding music in work areas substan­ tiated those already held by the Muzak Corporation. It affirmed (hat, first, "music used for functional purposes must be rationed, since continuous music creates its own monotony"; and second, "proper programming is essential to the effective­ ness of functional music." Under such

"planned sound conditions," the report suggested, productivity in work areas in­ creases.

In 1938 Warner Brothers bought both the Muzak Corporation and Associated Music Publishers from North American. Shortly thereafter, the first "special music service" was designed for offices and factories by the Muzak Programming Department. A franchise system was soon developed. Franchises popped up in De­troit; Washington. D.C.; Boston; Buffalo; and Los Angeles.

Muzak continued its research into functional music. The concept of "quarter-hour programming" — fifteen minutes of Muzak alternating with fifteen minutes of silence — was introduced in 1948. New equipment made "Travel Muzak" a standard feature on passenger ships and commercial airlines by 1950. The Fifties were a time of technological strides for Muzak, with the development of new equipment and the use of FM radio side-channels as a method for transmitting Muzak. The “library" was also updated in the Fifties, with the addition of favor­ites such as "Gigi," "Come Prima.” and "The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” In 1957 Muzak was purchased by the Wrather Corporation.

In the Sixties. Muzak saw a need to revamp. A new president took over. U. V. "Bing" Muscio. former executive vice-president of the Feaders Corporation, came aboard and created "The New Muzak." Muscio put together a "scien­tific board of advisors," composed of in­dustrial psychologists and "medical people," who would work with his Muzak musicologists and engineers.

Muscio ordered a thorough re­ examination of programming content, and initiated changes to phase out the schmaltzy in favor of more contemporary selections like “Fire and Rain," "Amer­ican Pie.” and "I Believe in Music." In 1972 the Muzak Corporation changed hands once again, this time be­ coming part of the Teleprompter Corpo­ ration. The late Seventies now finds Muzak well entrenched, profitable, and highly sophisticated. The firm considers itself "specialists in the physiological and psychological applications of music." A sleek black-and-silver brochure now identifies General Squier's radical notion as "Muzak; The Only One. ”

Jim Boggins, 35, is Muzak's San Diego manager. He came here in August of 1978 from Chicago, where he had worked with the parent company for seven years in a sales and management position. Tall and thickly built. Boggins has the sweeping grin and hearty hand­ shake of the accomplished salesman. He wears a bright white shirt open at the neck, a navy-blue blazer, and crisp, gray slacks. A tuft of sky-blue silk handker­chief peeks discreetly from his breast pocket. His longish hair is dark brown. Boggins sits behind a huge oak executive desk in his Morena Boulevard office smoking a Benson & Hedges Light. Muzak pours in from a round overhead speaker. The "in" section of his plastic “in-out” basket is empty.

A plaque hangs on the paneled wall to the manager’s left. He points out that it was awarded to him upon his admission to Muzak’s "5000 Club," a distinction shared by only nine other people. The award, presented by Bing Muscio in 1978, means that Boggins had achieved S5000 in monthly billing for music ser­vices he sold during the previous year. "And most of our agreements are for sixty months,” he smiles. "There’s a considerable amount of money in Muzak." Boggins' San Diego office which has been in operation since the mid-Forties. represents one of 10 Muzak franchises in California, one of approximately 275 on the planet. "The Muzak system is in every free world country,” he says proudly, "on every continent.”

A Muzak franchisee must buy his own equipment and hardware, such as amplifiers, speakers, antennae, tuners, and wiring. Start-up costs come to "over a quarter of a million dollars, minimum." The Muzak Corporation. Boggins ex­plains, provides only their trade name and their tapes to franchisees. "They are the music source." he says of the company. "Muzak is the single largest recorder in the world on a per-tune basis.”

Jim Boggins butts out his cigarette in a clear glass ashtray on his desktop, leans back in his chair, and talks about the product. "It is a basic philosophy in Muzak,” he begins, "that the majority of people are looking for job satisfaction. They are trying to relieve the monotony, frustration, and anxiety associated with tasks that are. in themselves, repetitive. I tell potential clients to take a look at their parking lots at five o'clock. Their employees will kill themselves getting out of there. I tell them that anything they can do to alleviate this situation will pay off in dollars and cents. Your plant or facility can't be variable. But the people are vari­ables. People are the only area you have real control over. So you must utilize management tools which will increase the productivity of employees. To test the effectiveness of Muzak. I tell them to take a look at their financial statement.”

Boggins notes that case studies by in­ dependent study organizations over the years have substantiated Muzak's claims that what their product offers is "a sense of forward movement and change, de­ signed to mitigate tension, boredom, melancholy, and fatigue.” Studies con­ ducted at Lever Brothers Company. East­ ern Air Lines, and the Mississippi Power and Light Company in the late Fifties all indicated increased productivity, de­ creased errors, lateness, employee turn­ over. and absenteeism.

Boggins lights another cigarette and explains the difference between "background" and "foreground" music. Leaning forward, elbows on the desk, he says that "regular" music, such as radios or tape decks, played in work areas com­petes with the attention span of the indi­vidual. and could result in overruns, waste, even physical Injury due to a tack of concentration. He warns of music played at random in work areas. "What you’re doing, frankly, is playing Russian roulette with the psyches of the people involved. You see. listening takes active concentration. There are certain tech­niques in most recorded music, like 're- verbs.' fading endings, and so forth, which are designed to draw your atten­tion. But Muzak is a sublimal influence. It is heard, but not listened to.”

He explains how it works. A customer, he says, buys the basic Muzak service, which costs thirty-five dollars a month and requires a five-year agreement. If the customer has an adequate on-premises sound system, Muzak installers set up an antenna and a pre-set tuner. Any addi­tional equipment needed, such as an amplifier or extra speakers, may be leased or purchased from Muzak. Through a process known as FM multiplexing — the use of FM radio side-channels — a signal is broadcast from a central transmitter (the transmitter serving San Diego County is in Mexico, at XHIS-FM, a 50,000-watt station) to the pre-set tuner, which can only pick up that one frequency. The"master tapes" are at the transmitting facility. All the customer has to do is flip a switch.

Boggins, cautious of revealing detailed information about his clients, says there are more than 1000 San Diego businesses currently subscribing to Muzak; many of these, such as banks and franchised organizations. have a number of branches using the service. It's likely that several hundred thousand San Diegans are ex­ posed to Muzak every day. though the company has not attempted to estimate a more precise figure. “I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion,” says Boggins. shuffling papers on his desk. ‘‘And we have all the McDonald's. Arby's. Kentucky Fried Chicken’s, most of your fast foods, your Del Tacos, things like that." He punches an intercom button and asks his secretary to bring in the “testimonial file.” She whisks in moments later with a pair of letters. One, from the owner of Eve Richards, a women's clothing shop in Grossmont Center, says that Muzak “certainly brings warmth and a feeling of 'aliveness' to the store." The other, from A. William Waite, building manager of the Chamber Building downtown, says. "Thanks for a job well done."

Contacted later. Bill Madsen, assistant senior vice-president of the Vista branch of the Southwest Bank. says he is pleased with the Muzak service. "We started it here and in several other branches in 1976. Personally, I find it very soothing. It works. It seems to do everything the brochure says it will do. We even had a shutdown for about two weeks once. Fi­nally. somebody noticed it. They came right out and fixed it. and when it came back on it seemed to rejuvenate every­body.”

But an employee at another bank is not quite as enthused. Linda, a teller at a North County branch of the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank, handles money five days a week in a Muzak-saturated atmosphere. "I don't like Muzak,” she frowns. "I'd rather have it be quiet. In fact. I don't like to hear Muzak anywhere I go. It's an infringement on me, and I find that it can be very irritating. It just inhibits the natural communication be­ tween us and others, and between our­ selves and ourselves. You can’t even think. It's an incredible encroachment on my personal space, and I really resent that. Fortunately. I can get away from it when I work the drive-up window. It would just drive me crazy if I had to work someplace where I heard it all the time."

"Muzak is one further step in control­ ling the environment in the business,” says Jim Boggins. "But some feel it is distracting. I’ve found that usually, when that's the case, either it's not really us at all, or it is us, and the sound is up too loud. Sometimes we get blamed for a lot of things. Muzak should be played at a low ebb.

“A lot of people will say, 'Jeez. I’ve heard that song a hundred times.' But our computers select and arrange programs so that it is physically impossible to hear any song sequence the same way within 180 days. But it is the nature of the animal. Muzak is recorded to achieve a certain purpose. Therefore, certain arrangements are the same, as are certain instruments used. Versatility and variety is not one of our parameters. By design.” he says, reaching for a cigarette, "we arc provid­ing some sort of stimulus response for the day. ”

He talks about Muzak's concept of "stimulus progression." He says that selections are planned in fifteen-minute groups, starting with the least stimulating and advancing to the most stimulating section. The result, he adds, is a sense of forward movement and change. Muzak arranges and controls its own "music to specification." Their engineers maintain control of tempo, rhythm, instrumenta­tion. and orchestra size. Accordingly, each song is assigned a "stimulus value.” and a Muzak Mood Rating. "Baretta's Theme," for example, might rate a six- plus. while "Go Away, Little Girl" might only be a three-plus. The higher the rating, the higher the metronomic moti­vation packed into the tune. And once the stimulus values of the recordings are de­termined, it is a simple matter of mathematics to perk up an employee musi­cally, provided you can calculate his own internal mood rating.

Boggins notes that Muzak uses the American Management Association's "Worker’s Efficiency Curve" as a guideline in ascertaining when to play what. "What we do in fifteen-minute segments," he says, "is to actually mir­ror that curve. At nine in the morning, for example, we play our twos and threes, the low end of the scale. All you need at that time is the possible suggestion of forward movement. At around 10:30 there's a valley in the work day. so we bring our curve up. Just before the authorized es­cape of lunch, the worker’s own prod­uctivity scale goes up, so we bring ours back down. A high stimulation at this point would be counter-productive. It goes like that throughout the day. so that you always get the feel of forward move­ment.”

Muzak programs differently for three general categories of environment. One is the retail public area, such as Safeway markets. University Towne Center, Fashion and Mission Valley malls, and restaurants like Mr. A's and Lubach’s. The second is office or light industry, such as Spin Physics in Sorrento Valley and the seven Prudential Insurance of­fices. And third is heavy industry, such as the Vertronix company in South Bay, and the Navy's shipyards. "In heavy indus­try.” says Boggins, “ninety percent of the workers there might have a twelve-year educational level, or they might be predominantly minority. In certain situa­tions maybe we can increase their re­sponse with something up tempo.”

But Muzak is not strictly for workers. Its melodious web is also available to clients, patients, customers, the public at large. Boggins will not say that Muzak will make people buy anything, but he does say that it can certainly put them in the mood. "Muzak improves the service and hospitality given to a customer, since it improves the employee’s attitude. We know that sixty to seventy percent of things arc bought on impulse. We feel that a positive environment is obviously a very conclusive advantage to assist in im­pulse buying. Basically. Muzak provides a nondistractive environment for a mul­titude of things to happen.”

The manager deftly fields a phone call. After the call, he places the receiver in its chrome cradle and says, "Muzak helps me considerably to remain effective throughout a day which is obviously full of trials and tribulations." He grins openly, exposing a row of gleaming white teeth. "And my wife listens to it during the day.” he adds. "She finds it stimu­lates her to do housework.”

The issue of silence is no barrier to the Muzak man. "Silence is basically the loudest noise in the world," he says quickly. “In and by itself, it’s a wonder­ful state. But frankly, we’ve been pro­grammed from a very early age not to be able to handle silence, whether through TV or whatever. Silence is a distraction. ”

Boggins is equally glib about concerns of psychic meddling and "Big Brotherism.” He leans back in his huge leather chair. A shaft of sunlight falls across his blue silk handkerchief and clear, clean-shaven face. "This stems from a 1984 thing," he begins. "What I think we have to look at is the lifestyle we have created for ourselves. We are all trying to work hard enough to accrue some of the conveniences of a modern society. In doing so, we’ve created a pressure-sensitive environment, though most of the pressure is self-employed. We have to find some ways of relieving these anxieties, and I feel Muzak affords us that release. So I don't really believe those charges apply, because the intent and bottom-line result is quite apart from any philosophy espoused by Big Brotherism. ”

He leans forward onto the wide desk again. "Muzak basically is a noise. We like to consider it a positive noise, whereas the impact sound of a typewriter is a distracting noise. All situations will have some type of noise. It is a matter of introducing into that area the most pro­ductive type of noise you can.”

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“I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion." - Image by David Diaz
“I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion."

Muzak is not music at all. It is not an entertainment. It is soft, beguiling, unctu­ous noise with a specific purpose. It is the soothing voice of corporate America humming "Shenandoah" as you punch in at Ekstrom Industries in Kearny Mesa, cash a paycheck at Crocker Bank. or wait for a burger and Coke at McDonald's. Muzak is "Guadalupe" piped into a crowded elevator in the Security Pacific building downtown. It is "Fascination" seeping into the subconscious while you search for nutmeg in the Safeway spice aisle. Muzak is "scientifically planned musical programming" designed to put you in the mood to worry less, spend more, or work hard.

Each song is assigned a "stimulus value.” and a Muzak Mood Rating. "Baretta's Theme" might rate a six-plus. while "Go Away, Little Girl" might only be a three-plus.

More than 100,000 organizations in over 25 countries employ Muzak systems. More than 100 million people hear it every working day. There is Muzak at IBM, AT&T, Xerox, and General Motors. There is Muzak at Caterpillar Tractor. J.C. Penney, Gerbers, and EJ. Korvettes. There is Muzak at the White House.

Like many successful enterprises, Muzak has a little-known history and a colorful founding father. In March of 1922. Brigadier General George Owen Squier. World War I veteran and former chief signal officer of the United States Army, marched into the New York of­fices of the North American Company, a huge public utility holding company. Squier, a man who had actually flown with the Wright brothers, had an idea to discuss, and a patented plan to present. He wanted to use existing electric power lines to transmit programs of news, music, lectures, general entertainment, and advertising into private homes, for a fee. North American's executives loved the idea, and the utility quickly had a license to broadcast their "piggyback" signal to potential subscribers via power lines throughout the United States. Wired . Radio. Incorporated, was formed.

A subsidiary of North American named Associated Music Publishers, Incorpo­rated. swiftly grabbed up the American rights to a large number of classical and semiclassical compositions. Since live entertainment was impractical for the purposes of Wired Radio, the concept of prerecorded programming was born. After experiments on Staten Island. New York, and further research and testing in Ampere. New Jersey. North American fi­nally launched a full-scale operation in 1934 under their newly formed sub­sidiary. Muzak Corporation. Music and news came into the homes of subscribers in Cleveland. Ohio, over the same lines which brought electric power and light.

But by this time. Marconi’s "wireless" had taken hold, and commercial radio, already a proven success, was here to stay. In addition, the technical problems of transmitting over electric power lines had become enormous. So Muzak took another approach. The firm concentrated on transmitting what they called “func­tional music" to hotels and restaurants, this time over telephone lines instead of electric power lines. The company in­ vested in new and durable, vertically en­ graved "vinylite" 33-1/3 r.p.m. discs on which to make their recordings.

In 1936 you could dine at the fashiona­ble Stork Club, or the posh Chambord in New York City, and chat about Mayor LaGuardia while the background strains ' of "There's a Small Hotel.” or "The Night is Young and You're So Beautiful" came in on Muzak’s "six-to-nine" program.

Muzak was also interested in the influ­ ence of music in work areas. In 1937 a pair of British industrial psychologists.

S. Wyatt and J.N. Langdon. published the results of a study conducted in England and titled Fatigue ami Boredom in Repetitive Work. The report's conclusions regarding music in work areas substan­ tiated those already held by the Muzak Corporation. It affirmed (hat, first, "music used for functional purposes must be rationed, since continuous music creates its own monotony"; and second, "proper programming is essential to the effective­ ness of functional music." Under such

"planned sound conditions," the report suggested, productivity in work areas in­ creases.

In 1938 Warner Brothers bought both the Muzak Corporation and Associated Music Publishers from North American. Shortly thereafter, the first "special music service" was designed for offices and factories by the Muzak Programming Department. A franchise system was soon developed. Franchises popped up in De­troit; Washington. D.C.; Boston; Buffalo; and Los Angeles.

Muzak continued its research into functional music. The concept of "quarter-hour programming" — fifteen minutes of Muzak alternating with fifteen minutes of silence — was introduced in 1948. New equipment made "Travel Muzak" a standard feature on passenger ships and commercial airlines by 1950. The Fifties were a time of technological strides for Muzak, with the development of new equipment and the use of FM radio side-channels as a method for transmitting Muzak. The “library" was also updated in the Fifties, with the addition of favor­ites such as "Gigi," "Come Prima.” and "The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” In 1957 Muzak was purchased by the Wrather Corporation.

In the Sixties. Muzak saw a need to revamp. A new president took over. U. V. "Bing" Muscio. former executive vice-president of the Feaders Corporation, came aboard and created "The New Muzak." Muscio put together a "scien­tific board of advisors," composed of in­dustrial psychologists and "medical people," who would work with his Muzak musicologists and engineers.

Muscio ordered a thorough re­ examination of programming content, and initiated changes to phase out the schmaltzy in favor of more contemporary selections like “Fire and Rain," "Amer­ican Pie.” and "I Believe in Music." In 1972 the Muzak Corporation changed hands once again, this time be­ coming part of the Teleprompter Corpo­ ration. The late Seventies now finds Muzak well entrenched, profitable, and highly sophisticated. The firm considers itself "specialists in the physiological and psychological applications of music." A sleek black-and-silver brochure now identifies General Squier's radical notion as "Muzak; The Only One. ”

Jim Boggins, 35, is Muzak's San Diego manager. He came here in August of 1978 from Chicago, where he had worked with the parent company for seven years in a sales and management position. Tall and thickly built. Boggins has the sweeping grin and hearty hand­ shake of the accomplished salesman. He wears a bright white shirt open at the neck, a navy-blue blazer, and crisp, gray slacks. A tuft of sky-blue silk handker­chief peeks discreetly from his breast pocket. His longish hair is dark brown. Boggins sits behind a huge oak executive desk in his Morena Boulevard office smoking a Benson & Hedges Light. Muzak pours in from a round overhead speaker. The "in" section of his plastic “in-out” basket is empty.

A plaque hangs on the paneled wall to the manager’s left. He points out that it was awarded to him upon his admission to Muzak’s "5000 Club," a distinction shared by only nine other people. The award, presented by Bing Muscio in 1978, means that Boggins had achieved S5000 in monthly billing for music ser­vices he sold during the previous year. "And most of our agreements are for sixty months,” he smiles. "There’s a considerable amount of money in Muzak." Boggins' San Diego office which has been in operation since the mid-Forties. represents one of 10 Muzak franchises in California, one of approximately 275 on the planet. "The Muzak system is in every free world country,” he says proudly, "on every continent.”

A Muzak franchisee must buy his own equipment and hardware, such as amplifiers, speakers, antennae, tuners, and wiring. Start-up costs come to "over a quarter of a million dollars, minimum." The Muzak Corporation. Boggins ex­plains, provides only their trade name and their tapes to franchisees. "They are the music source." he says of the company. "Muzak is the single largest recorder in the world on a per-tune basis.”

Jim Boggins butts out his cigarette in a clear glass ashtray on his desktop, leans back in his chair, and talks about the product. "It is a basic philosophy in Muzak,” he begins, "that the majority of people are looking for job satisfaction. They are trying to relieve the monotony, frustration, and anxiety associated with tasks that are. in themselves, repetitive. I tell potential clients to take a look at their parking lots at five o'clock. Their employees will kill themselves getting out of there. I tell them that anything they can do to alleviate this situation will pay off in dollars and cents. Your plant or facility can't be variable. But the people are vari­ables. People are the only area you have real control over. So you must utilize management tools which will increase the productivity of employees. To test the effectiveness of Muzak. I tell them to take a look at their financial statement.”

Boggins notes that case studies by in­ dependent study organizations over the years have substantiated Muzak's claims that what their product offers is "a sense of forward movement and change, de­ signed to mitigate tension, boredom, melancholy, and fatigue.” Studies con­ ducted at Lever Brothers Company. East­ ern Air Lines, and the Mississippi Power and Light Company in the late Fifties all indicated increased productivity, de­ creased errors, lateness, employee turn­ over. and absenteeism.

Boggins lights another cigarette and explains the difference between "background" and "foreground" music. Leaning forward, elbows on the desk, he says that "regular" music, such as radios or tape decks, played in work areas com­petes with the attention span of the indi­vidual. and could result in overruns, waste, even physical Injury due to a tack of concentration. He warns of music played at random in work areas. "What you’re doing, frankly, is playing Russian roulette with the psyches of the people involved. You see. listening takes active concentration. There are certain tech­niques in most recorded music, like 're- verbs.' fading endings, and so forth, which are designed to draw your atten­tion. But Muzak is a sublimal influence. It is heard, but not listened to.”

He explains how it works. A customer, he says, buys the basic Muzak service, which costs thirty-five dollars a month and requires a five-year agreement. If the customer has an adequate on-premises sound system, Muzak installers set up an antenna and a pre-set tuner. Any addi­tional equipment needed, such as an amplifier or extra speakers, may be leased or purchased from Muzak. Through a process known as FM multiplexing — the use of FM radio side-channels — a signal is broadcast from a central transmitter (the transmitter serving San Diego County is in Mexico, at XHIS-FM, a 50,000-watt station) to the pre-set tuner, which can only pick up that one frequency. The"master tapes" are at the transmitting facility. All the customer has to do is flip a switch.

Boggins, cautious of revealing detailed information about his clients, says there are more than 1000 San Diego businesses currently subscribing to Muzak; many of these, such as banks and franchised organizations. have a number of branches using the service. It's likely that several hundred thousand San Diegans are ex­ posed to Muzak every day. though the company has not attempted to estimate a more precise figure. “I don't believe there’s a financial institution in San Diego that we don’t serve in at least one loca­tion,” says Boggins. shuffling papers on his desk. ‘‘And we have all the McDonald's. Arby's. Kentucky Fried Chicken’s, most of your fast foods, your Del Tacos, things like that." He punches an intercom button and asks his secretary to bring in the “testimonial file.” She whisks in moments later with a pair of letters. One, from the owner of Eve Richards, a women's clothing shop in Grossmont Center, says that Muzak “certainly brings warmth and a feeling of 'aliveness' to the store." The other, from A. William Waite, building manager of the Chamber Building downtown, says. "Thanks for a job well done."

Contacted later. Bill Madsen, assistant senior vice-president of the Vista branch of the Southwest Bank. says he is pleased with the Muzak service. "We started it here and in several other branches in 1976. Personally, I find it very soothing. It works. It seems to do everything the brochure says it will do. We even had a shutdown for about two weeks once. Fi­nally. somebody noticed it. They came right out and fixed it. and when it came back on it seemed to rejuvenate every­body.”

But an employee at another bank is not quite as enthused. Linda, a teller at a North County branch of the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank, handles money five days a week in a Muzak-saturated atmosphere. "I don't like Muzak,” she frowns. "I'd rather have it be quiet. In fact. I don't like to hear Muzak anywhere I go. It's an infringement on me, and I find that it can be very irritating. It just inhibits the natural communication be­ tween us and others, and between our­ selves and ourselves. You can’t even think. It's an incredible encroachment on my personal space, and I really resent that. Fortunately. I can get away from it when I work the drive-up window. It would just drive me crazy if I had to work someplace where I heard it all the time."

"Muzak is one further step in control­ ling the environment in the business,” says Jim Boggins. "But some feel it is distracting. I’ve found that usually, when that's the case, either it's not really us at all, or it is us, and the sound is up too loud. Sometimes we get blamed for a lot of things. Muzak should be played at a low ebb.

“A lot of people will say, 'Jeez. I’ve heard that song a hundred times.' But our computers select and arrange programs so that it is physically impossible to hear any song sequence the same way within 180 days. But it is the nature of the animal. Muzak is recorded to achieve a certain purpose. Therefore, certain arrangements are the same, as are certain instruments used. Versatility and variety is not one of our parameters. By design.” he says, reaching for a cigarette, "we arc provid­ing some sort of stimulus response for the day. ”

He talks about Muzak's concept of "stimulus progression." He says that selections are planned in fifteen-minute groups, starting with the least stimulating and advancing to the most stimulating section. The result, he adds, is a sense of forward movement and change. Muzak arranges and controls its own "music to specification." Their engineers maintain control of tempo, rhythm, instrumenta­tion. and orchestra size. Accordingly, each song is assigned a "stimulus value.” and a Muzak Mood Rating. "Baretta's Theme," for example, might rate a six- plus. while "Go Away, Little Girl" might only be a three-plus. The higher the rating, the higher the metronomic moti­vation packed into the tune. And once the stimulus values of the recordings are de­termined, it is a simple matter of mathematics to perk up an employee musi­cally, provided you can calculate his own internal mood rating.

Boggins notes that Muzak uses the American Management Association's "Worker’s Efficiency Curve" as a guideline in ascertaining when to play what. "What we do in fifteen-minute segments," he says, "is to actually mir­ror that curve. At nine in the morning, for example, we play our twos and threes, the low end of the scale. All you need at that time is the possible suggestion of forward movement. At around 10:30 there's a valley in the work day. so we bring our curve up. Just before the authorized es­cape of lunch, the worker’s own prod­uctivity scale goes up, so we bring ours back down. A high stimulation at this point would be counter-productive. It goes like that throughout the day. so that you always get the feel of forward move­ment.”

Muzak programs differently for three general categories of environment. One is the retail public area, such as Safeway markets. University Towne Center, Fashion and Mission Valley malls, and restaurants like Mr. A's and Lubach’s. The second is office or light industry, such as Spin Physics in Sorrento Valley and the seven Prudential Insurance of­fices. And third is heavy industry, such as the Vertronix company in South Bay, and the Navy's shipyards. "In heavy indus­try.” says Boggins, “ninety percent of the workers there might have a twelve-year educational level, or they might be predominantly minority. In certain situa­tions maybe we can increase their re­sponse with something up tempo.”

But Muzak is not strictly for workers. Its melodious web is also available to clients, patients, customers, the public at large. Boggins will not say that Muzak will make people buy anything, but he does say that it can certainly put them in the mood. "Muzak improves the service and hospitality given to a customer, since it improves the employee’s attitude. We know that sixty to seventy percent of things arc bought on impulse. We feel that a positive environment is obviously a very conclusive advantage to assist in im­pulse buying. Basically. Muzak provides a nondistractive environment for a mul­titude of things to happen.”

The manager deftly fields a phone call. After the call, he places the receiver in its chrome cradle and says, "Muzak helps me considerably to remain effective throughout a day which is obviously full of trials and tribulations." He grins openly, exposing a row of gleaming white teeth. "And my wife listens to it during the day.” he adds. "She finds it stimu­lates her to do housework.”

The issue of silence is no barrier to the Muzak man. "Silence is basically the loudest noise in the world," he says quickly. “In and by itself, it’s a wonder­ful state. But frankly, we’ve been pro­grammed from a very early age not to be able to handle silence, whether through TV or whatever. Silence is a distraction. ”

Boggins is equally glib about concerns of psychic meddling and "Big Brotherism.” He leans back in his huge leather chair. A shaft of sunlight falls across his blue silk handkerchief and clear, clean-shaven face. "This stems from a 1984 thing," he begins. "What I think we have to look at is the lifestyle we have created for ourselves. We are all trying to work hard enough to accrue some of the conveniences of a modern society. In doing so, we’ve created a pressure-sensitive environment, though most of the pressure is self-employed. We have to find some ways of relieving these anxieties, and I feel Muzak affords us that release. So I don't really believe those charges apply, because the intent and bottom-line result is quite apart from any philosophy espoused by Big Brotherism. ”

He leans forward onto the wide desk again. "Muzak basically is a noise. We like to consider it a positive noise, whereas the impact sound of a typewriter is a distracting noise. All situations will have some type of noise. It is a matter of introducing into that area the most pro­ductive type of noise you can.”

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