Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Muzak firm files for bankruptcy

Skyscraper
Muzak was often used in elevators in skyscrapers

Muzak Holdings, the US company known for providing background music in lifts, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Muzak made the move after missing a $105m (74m) payment to creditors.

Documents filed with a US bankruptcy court showed that the company had liabilities in the range of $100m to $500m.

The firm said it was confident it had sufficient means to support the business during the Chapter 11 process.

"Muzak is a solid business with an outstanding customer base, but we are burdened with substantial debt obligations established over a decade ago," Muzak chief executive Stephen Villa said.

Business would continue as usual, he added.

Trademark

Muzak Holdings was founded in 1934 in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

It owns the registered trademark "Muzak" which refers to the background music often played in businesses, restaurants, shops and hotels.

Muzak started in the 1920s when Major General George Squier patented the process of transmitting music over electrical lines.

Squier came up with the name by combining "music" and "Kodak", his favourite hi-tech firm.

Though initially paying to use other artists' music, after conducting psychological research into the effect of background music, the company began producing its own music.

Debate

In recent years Muzak Holdings has moved away from the instrumental arrangements associated with muzak, offering a broader range of music as well as commercial television.

Although supporters of Muzak say it can be soothing, others find it annoying.

In 1996 Green Party peer Lord Beaumont proposed banning it in trains and hospitals.

Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim also launched a campaign against Muzak, claiming it encouraged people to "repress" the ear.



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