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Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 15:07 GMT
Should muzak be banned?

Do you find the strains of South American panpipe music a soothing experience when you're sitting in a doctor's waiting room, or does it have the effect of fingernails scraping down a blackboard?

Conservative MP Robert Key is the driving force behind a bill that aims to ban piped music from public places like supermarkets, waiting rooms and airports, he says "muzak" has an adverse effect on human health.

Has the inane tinkling of supermarket music driven you to leave a shop? Do you find your blood pressure rising at the sound of another colourless tune, or maybe you find it relaxing and have the albums playing in your car to help you forget the traffic.

McDonald's Restaurants, for instance, play faster paced muzak at peak service periods, to make people move faster and clear out. At less busy periods, they play slower muzak, to make customers stay longer and buy more. I do not like to be the subject of other people's psychological manipulation, and on that account muzak upsets me. Besides, it's just plain awful stuff to listen to.
Kristian, Canada

One man's music is another man's noise. Just keep it turned down in public.

Adriano, UK
Pity the poor musician, who has to play "Girl from Ipanema" for the 400th time, knowing it will be played in a lift and never listened to. Then consider the mechanical performance royalties Slade must get every Christmas... One man's music is another man's noise. Just keep it turned down in public.
Adriano, UK

Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland, I have worked for Tesco for 4 years and thankfully I have never heard 'muzak' played there. And I certainly haven't shuffled about like a creature from Dawn of the Dead!!!
Morris, UK

Yes, musak should be banned. An alternative is not to purchase goods from any shop using music inside. We already do that to a large extent. If shops know people are doing that it might influence them.
W. Butcher, England

Musak help create atmosphere in shops. This 'happy' atmosphere makes us buy more.

Derek Nethercote, United Kingdom
Musak help create atmosphere in shops. This 'happy' atmosphere makes us buy more. If there is no musak then we buy less, which means the shops buy less from manufacturer. The manufacturers then make people redundant. So does Tory Robert Key want to see more people out of work because he does not like musak? So more Musak = more jobs.
Derek Nethercote, United Kingdom

Surely as an elected MP, he should be concentrating on real issues that actually effect our lives. But I suppose Mr Robert Key has achieved his main objective. (Sadly your 15 minutes are up sir)
Alex, UK

The more music of various types that can be played in public, the better! There's too many miseries around today that just don't seem to be able to listen to anything - they'd rather be watching TV for some unknown reason (a medium that is exceedingly more annoying than music - we could do with getting a few of those things out of our pubs for instance!). So let's bring it on - more music, more volume, break that oppressive silence - now dance!!!
Dave Strong, UK

While I agree that muzak is annoying I doubt it is a threat to your health. But banning is a very dangerous step for any government to take. Once you start down that slippery slope it's hard to stop. The best way to get businesses to stop using muzak is to make them hurt in the wallet. Start an Anti-Muzak campaign and picket businesses that use it. There is no better way to change a business then to make them less profitable. Here in Hawaii though we don't have that problem. In the background you hear music from various local radio stations. And the music is appropriate to the store. If you go to Hilo Hattie's you hear Hawaiian music. Barnes and Noble Music store, some pop music. In some of the larger department stores different sections have different types of music. Music for children in the Children's section etc. Be creative!
Osiris Johnson, Hawaii, USA

Christmas CDs should be banned in all public places until the seven days before the big event - by the end of November I usually feel like I will kill myself if I hear "I wish it could be Christmas everyday" one more time. Muzak is irritating but not quite as bad. Hold music on the other hand.....
Fay, UK

What else is there to listen to in an elevator - somebody blowing wind? I never even notice it in super stores. I listen to music when I want to hear it in my car or on my hi-fi, otherwise it's just incidental to life and not worth arguing about
Mark, Germany

Muzak is hideous, but there are hundreds of worthier causes to be fighting for.

Sarah, England
I do hope that Robert Key is paying as much attention to his constituents' needs in Salisbury where he is MP (and incidentally where I hail from) as he is to this kind of nonsense. Muzak is hideous, but there are hundreds of worthier causes to be fighting for. Get a life Mr Key!
Sarah, England


You can't like "noise". It is a contradiction. Noise is "unwanted sound". We respond to sound in a positive way and may find it soothing if we choose/desire it, but if we don't want to listen to it, the sound will annoy. Annoyance leads to clinical stress.
Muzak is noise, because we do not choose to listen to it. It is forced on us.
Val Weedon MBE, England

Are we all such mindless morons that we need to have muzak pumped out at us to dull our senses?

Ian, UK
I would like to have the choice of whether I wish to listen to music - and a choice about the type of music. Most of the muzak to which we are subjected is second rate and is little more than a type of background noise. Music should be beautiful and listening to it an uplifting, not an infuriating, experience.
Are we all such mindless morons that we need to have muzak pumped out at us to dull our senses? No, we're not, so we deserve the choice of whether we have to listen to it or not. We have to remember, of course, the vested interests in the muzak industry who make vast amounts of money.
Ian, UK

Vote with your feet, if you don't like the sound of something - leave! If you can't then, learn to live with it, work around it, or adapt to it. People change the world/people too much to suit themselves, instead of trying to adapt to it. What a boring world it would be if everywhere/one looked and sounded the same!

Muzak is an example with our society's obsession with loudness. The students who live next door to me consider me to be weird because I don't enjoy listening to their music any time at all - I also object to shops which have their musak up so loud that it leaks into other shops. A nice bookshop I know in Cardiff has been ruined by a shop next door who have turned their muzak up to sound fashionable!
Muiris, Wales

Muzak is the aural equivalent of having your head patted... CONTINUOUSLY
Ben Caspersz, UK

Please let's have a ban on politicians putting forward crazy and unnecessary bits of legislation? I am utterly fed up with the "let's ban X" people, irrespective of which party they belong to.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

I'm all for banning music in public places and always walk out of shops playing music.
Rowland Stacey, England

It seems illogical to me that we try and deal with noise by creating more noise. Has there been no advance in sound absorption materials since the creation of musaK? To be forced to listen something is an offence to a captive audience. We all have had too much. Perhaps, as Monty Python in 'The Meaning of Life' suggested, the number one problem with humanity is that we are too often distracted. Abraham
Abraham Cottrill, Canada, born in England.

I find muzak to be a horrendous mind-numbing headache inducing bother. I'd rather listen to nothing than that drivel.
Kelly, U.S.

Muzak is not music. It's noise pollution.I like to listen to music, not shop to it! Appropriating music for commercial means - piping it into stores or other public spaces, or using it in commercials cheapens it. If it's a silly jingle - fine, but I can't think of Gershwin nowadays without thinking of United Airlines, or the end of Beethoven's 9th symphony without thinking of Gulf Oil.
Tom Lalley, USA

I went to look for some jeans and a shirt the other day, and found that most shops had extremely loud dance music which made it really hard to choose or even think at all. I feel sorry for the sales staff who have to work in this din!
Peter Benjamin, England

Does this question really need to beasked? I walked into Tesco one day and it actually frightened me - this muzak was playing and the people and the staff were shuffling about like creatures from Dawn of the Dead. I grabbed what I was there for and made a hasty retreat. This affront to music should quite simply be banned.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland

For many people, muzak is yet another source of noise pollution and stress in a noisy and stressful world, and for that reason alone, should be looked into. The more insidious aspect to it is the way in which it is exploited as a tool to encourage consumers to part with their money when they might not otherwise wish to do so. At least we can control the second of those two evils. The first is therefore ultimately more pernicious and merits investigation.
Julia, UK

It all depends on the 'muzak'. Some renditions are doubtless offensive and an insult to the hapless shopper. On the other hand, I am also sometimes almost 'hypnotised' and feeling insulated from the daily stresses by other examples. I think we should concentrate on the real issue here. It is not the quality of the muzak but the reason for which it is played. As I understand, people are more likely on average to shop longer than they would do when muzak is absent.
Paul Boswell, England

After only one hour of being forced to listen to other peoples choice of music while shopping, I have a raging migraine. I will even become violent. My wife and I will avoid if possible these shops, but it is almost impossible. I would rather shop via the internet whilst listening to complete silence.
Paul, U.K

I vote with my feet and walk out of large shops. I resent having music intruding on my thoughts

KNB, Australia
I vote with my feet and walk out of large shops and a local library. I resent having music intruding on my thoughts. I feel very sorry for the poor souls that work in banks that have non stop videos extolling the services offered to the customers. I also resent when making a phone call being put on hold and having to listen to canned music at my expense. Far better to get an engaged tone and to try later that to be told 'we value your custom and will be with you soon'
KNB, Australia

Musak is supposed to provide a more relaxed work environment. WRONG! It is the cause of more cursing and anger than almost anything else in the workplace.
Sharif, USA

Surely there has to be something happenning in the world that deserves this talking point space than Muzak. Although prolonged exposure to muzak does lower your I.Q.
Nick Bradley, U.K (in U.S)

I am concerned that Labour's "If we don't like it, let's ban it" philosophy seems to be extending to the Conservative Party. I would have thought taxation, Northern Ireland, the EU and the London Mayoralty should be concerning Robert Key more than muzak! Is he a serious politician?
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

So Muzak police. Whatever next? Fines for walking on the cracks in the pavement?

Paul Stancer, Hong Kong
Oh please! Have British opposition politicians sunk to such ideological depths, that this is all they can come up with - Muzak police. Whatever next? Fines for walking on the cracks in the pavement! I'd have thought there was better things to waste parliamentary time on.
Paul Stancer, Hong Kong

Robert Key must be a loose end. Can't they give him some filing to do?
Paul Hicks, UK

Instead of banning "muzak" that is relatively decent introduce new rules on maximum allowable decibel level in discos or similar places. Loud music has quite evidently destroyed the hearing of the current youth. That is a real health hazard, not a question of taste like muzak.
mikko toivonen, finland

Piped "muzak" is agitating, infuriating, and has no musical value. But banning it would be over restrictive. There is a certain point where governments become to regulatory. In America, the government has already been in our toilets, saying that we can only have 2.3 gallons per flush. This type of Government control is absurd.
Jeremy DeWaal, United States

At last a conservative bill I can agree with. If I walked into a supermarket with a Hi Fi and started playing my choice of music, I'd probably be asked to leave. Why do I have to put up it?
Jerome Davies, UK

A piped version of Phil Collin's "One More Night": Ahh... there's nothing like it!
Paul Harvey, USA

It must be stopped for the good of the world!

Stuart, UK
Having worked in a large department store I can safely say that muzak is pure evil. If I ever hear Bridge Over Troubled Water, muzak style again I may well require institutionalising. It must be stopped for the good of the world!
Stuart, UK

I agree it depends what you call "muzak". Some of the old school of muzak ("Stranger on the Shore", "Theme from a Summer Place") are kitsch classics, and are enjoying a quasi-ironic resurgence. Even modern bands such as Air are making cool muzak. Everything in moderation of course, just no Celine Dion on pan-pipes please!

It's bad. But it's not as bad as telephone "holding" musak, which is ear-bleeding stuff.
Wendy, UK

Marvel at how all those awkward silences in lifts have vanished with a single puff on Kenny G's sax.

Tom Braithwaite, UK
What nonsense! Musak is an absolute necessity in modern society. Think how often the screams and moans of children (and their parents) have been masked by a jolly rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the run up to Christmas. Marvel at how all those awkward silences in lifts have vanished with a single puff on Kenny G's sax. And most importantly, would any of us actually stay on hold on the phone for more than 3 minutes if there were just silence at the other end of the phone? British business depends on Musak. This Bill must be defeated.
Tom Braithwaite, UK

I wish we could get piped "music" banned in the US. I often find myself running out of a shop when the music is loathsome. I'm not capable of tuning out music I don't enjoy. In the US, we often don't get the "pleasure" of listening merely to "muzak" (bland instrumental music) but are most often forced to endure the Billboard top 20 over and over and over, ad nauseum.
As someone else mentioned, hearing the same lifeless tunes over and over again is torturous. I would prefer not to be forced to listen to music I don't enjoy. Whenever I'm out shopping and it becomes unbearable, I can't help but think of a line from "Kundun" - "They have taken away our silence." Please let us have our silence back!
Lily, USA

I don't mind real music piped into supermarkets or elevators, but I do get annoyed with those fake, processed, and canned versions of "All You Need is Love" and "Moon River."
Once while waiting for a doctor's appointment, I thought, "This is the music that is played while people learn they have cancer." No, I don't like it, however, outlawing it seems a little extreme. Enough complaints to the management might do the trick.
Faye, USA

As a partially deaf person I find muzak and its ilk very troubling.

Michael J Sullivan, Canada
As a partially deaf person I find muzak and its ilk very troubling for two reasons. First, physically I have to listen where normal people hear consequently that music is hard to listen over. Second, mentally the rubbish is telling me to be happy, be happy when I want to be anything I am. It creates a mental conflict that is just another part of modern living. No wonder we take so many drugs!
Michael J Sullivan, Canada

This MP has been given the rare chance to introduce legislation under the antiquated parliamentary rules, that could have been a platform to introduce any number of bills that would actually do something. Too bad he wastes his time on inconsequential foolishness, but why should he waste ours. Must be a real slow news day!
Nick G, UK

To me, piped music is an irritation, an annoyance and a nuisance. I would share the opinion that music is an expression of inner feeling, designed to be much much more than a pleasant tinkling of sounds in the background. The abuse of originally dynamic and powerful tunes when they are put through the muzak mincer is criminal.
Not all people may feel this way, but I may safely say that there are many who do, and fair play to the MP for actually saying something in public which countless people think every time they step into a lift. Yes, there are more important things to be debated in parliament, but people should remember the little things too. God is in the details.
Conor, Ireland

I find most background music irritating since it is usually 'gutted' to make it 'inoffensive' (as the producers think) and so it is nothing like the real thing - which is too individual to be acceptable to the mass audience.
Iain Robertson, Scotland

In public places and when being 'held' on the phone, silence is relaxing and muzak intensely irritating. It is an important issue and I am very pleased that Robert Key is raising it.
Jane, UK

Muzak should be banned immediately, no question. It has no place in the new Millennium. Even just thinking about muzak gets me riled. Bird sounds are far more soothing. But even better would be theme related background music. For example, in the dairy section of the supermarket, you could have cows moo-ing, or in lifts you could play 'moving on up' by M-people or 'Going Down' by Mel C.
Angus Macpherson, England

Being bombarded with this head-splitting noise means we don't venture out very often.

David Hodgson, US
Muzak is torture but what's much worse and reaching epidemic proportions in America is the programming of gag-inducing Whitney Houston-style diva wailing in many mall shops, grocery stores, clothing boutiques, etc. Being bombarded with this head-splitting noise means we don't venture out very often (unless it's absolutely necessary) and prefer to shop online.
David Hodgson, US

I think if the doctor's surgery did not play music people would be more uncomfortable.

Fiona Bielby, UK
I like listening to music and so having a selection of tunes playing in public areas, to me, is quite relaxing. At the end of the day it all depends on the type of music that is being played and whether it is relevant to the place it is being played. I was recently in a pub on a lunchtime and they were playing a chart type record on a CD player behind the bar. The music was so loud and the staff were too busy to notice that the CD had stuck and for 10-15 minutes played the same track over and over again. We finally complained as this was like Chinese water torture.
Fiona Bielby, UK

It would appear to me that the 'inane tinkling of supermarket music' is nothing compared to the 'inane tinkling of a Tory MP' who obviously has nothing better to do. They'll be telling us next that muzak is responsible for marriage breakdowns, low church turn-outs and little louts!
Andy, Hull, UK

For some people music is just a soundtrack whereas for the rest of us it's a lifelong passion. My pet hate of music often played in our office is bland commercial dross such as the Lighthouse Family or The Corrs. Having said that life would be a bit dull if we all liked the same things.
Frank, Wales

Some people seem to have an ability to ignore piped music. Perhaps it relaxes them - perhaps they don't even notice it. However I am not one of these fortunate people. In a class my wife and I attended when preparing for the birth of our son, piped music was played in the background to help us relax. Sadly for me it did the opposite - by the end of the session I could have gladly smashed the tape recorder!
John Lawrence, United Kingdom

Music or a radio in a car is a necessity for people stuck twice a day in traffic because their employers insist that they all work the same hours. In a quiet waiting room, some distraction is pleasant. It definitely helps me relax in the dentist's chair. However, in a supermarket or place that is already noisy, it just adds to the din. A shopping centre with its own muzak competing with that of each of its tenants, each wanting to be heard over the others, is a nightmare. A shop where I have to shout above the racket is not going to get my custom.
Melody Forrest, England

I think it's pathetic that, given the opportunity to raise a topic for debate in the Commons - an opportunity to discuss an issue worthy of public debate and consideration, an MP (and it would be a Tory one wouldn't it!) has nothing better to employee himself than banning piped music in public places!
Clare Sant, UK

No to Muzak and the playing of any music as "background". Unless I get to select it, of course. as I do when I 'listen' to BBC R3 while typing, cooking or even reading.
Lionel Shapiro, UK

This is the sort of inane thing that our MP's waste their time in trying to make Law. There are more important subjects and I wish that they would occupy their time in these areas.
Kevin Compton, England

To the musically aware, and the musically trained, it is likely that muzak is an irritation. I find it so. Music also has the ability to influence emotional state and therefore muzak in shops should not be allowed for similar reasons as for the ban on subliminal advertising: it gives product-pushers an unfair advantage over a largely unsuspecting public.
Phil, UK

Why oh why does one have to be bombarded by a cacophony broadcast by numerous individuals and organisations in lifts, waiting rooms, supermarkets, greengrocers, footpaths, highways (mobile boom boxes), neighbours etc etc. I like to listen to Bob Dylan but I don't force it on everyone else as I understand other tastes may differ. As for those marketing people who make claims about increased purchases by consumers in muzakked environments I beg to differ. I make a run for it in order to escape and usually end up beneath shop-front awnings which dangle cheap speakers at regular spacings rattling some different rendition of a muzzakle representation. There are laws against noise pollution but none it would seem against muzak. Any future studies into human violence should include the impact of such torture. The perpetrators should be charged with crimes against humanity.
R Tolkien, Australia

On recent trips to Bruges and cities in the Netherlands, my husband and I have been astonished to face muzak being played loudly onto the street through strategically placed microphones. Why would anyone need muzak to help them enjoy the stunning beauty of these cities? Yet others did not seem to notice it, let alone mind it. It drove us away and will continue to do so. I suspect those that can stand muzak have either no appreciation for music, or are brain dead. I find it intrusive and far from relaxing. Of course there are more life threatening issues that need to be addressed in Parliament, but there always will be. For the first time ever I agree with a Conservative!
Liz Edgington, The Netherlands (British)

Muzak has the effect of driving me out of a room, I feel as if my brain is turning to mush and I'm being intellectually suffocated.
Simon Lewis, UK

South American panflute might be annoying, but good quality soothing New Age (Enya, Clannad, Vangelis...) definitely saves my day, and relaxes me totally. No probs here...
Manne Laukkanen, Finland

I believe that it is an issue for Pipedown of the right to choose. As they claim that a number of major retailers have chosen a "no music" policy for their stores, this right to choose already exists. If some people do not care to hear music in stores or pubs, they are free to vote with their feet and go to the ones who do not play it. In contrast to the organisation's claims, I believe that there is in fact research to prove that the "right" music for a store does in fact add to a sales uplift. Personally, as a music lover, I find nothing worse than walking into a shop that is not busy and does not play music. It fills a void, and in the right environment can add the experience of the store, and even be entertaining.
Andrew, UK

For crying out loud! As if we didn't have enough laws, regulations and directives already. Why don't we actually rip a few pages out of the statute books for a change? Doesn't Bob Key have a pair of thumbs he could more usefully twiddle instead?
Henry Case, UK

Most music is okay, although most department stores seem to always play dros. I think it should definitely be banned during the xmas period when every single shop every year play the same songs over and over. It must drive the workers mad over this period.
Bill Crawley, England

Is this a joke? If not, it should be. What about health, education, crime, corrupt government, ballot rigging issues, i.e. the real problems facing the UK today. There are major problems in Britain today, not helped by inept politicians trying to score personal victories with breathtakingly stupid bills like this one.

Just be grateful you don't live in Japan. Here we have piped music in the streets. Any street with more than a few shops is lined with speakers attached to lamp-posts. Be warned - it could happen in England too!
Chris B, Japan

Muzak should not be banned for such individual feelings and emotions. It brings a lot of satisfaction and soothes even when we don't get what we are looking for.
VJ Sarathy , USA

I find muzak as annoying as anyone else, and would prefer to listen to proper music in a shop. Muzak is as annoying as those shops where you are stopped and offered assistance by a member of staff the moment you walk through the door. What I find odd about this is that this bill is being point in by a Tory MP. I thought the Tories were supposed to believe in deregulation! I can think of thousands of bills that should go in to parliament before this one. I don't know how he plans to ban this muzak as well - does it mean no music in shops, if so I certainly do not support it.
Andy, UK

One misunderstanding that many people need to get past is that muzak is there for our pleasure. It is not. It comes from the same reasoning that has filled up public spaces with security cameras, blazing white lights and impulse buys by the check out. Muzak is dull and annoying in order to keep you from lingering in any one spot. This is especially the case in fast food establishments, supermarkets and shopping malls where the stuff is cranked up to drive you along as you consume. The reason that it is played over the phone while you are on hold is to make it completely obvious that you have not been disconnected.
Justin Sprester, US

As someone who was for years blasted by my neighbours on both sides with what they called music (with a hideous thump-thump-thump which you don't hear but physically feel) I am all for removing this intrusion from public places - and we can rarely watch a television programme without having it forced upon us. All those who find it ridiculous that an MP should be considering such a move havn't had music (I actually dread the word now) forced upon them.
Mike, UK

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15 Mar 00 | UK
Muzak, sweet music
14 Mar 00 | UK Politics
MP moves to ban muzak
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