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Burb's Eye View: Muzak to your waiting ears

August 23, 2011|By Bryan Mahoney

In marketing class, it’s called disruption: A business does something completely out of the ordinary for its industry, and customers either say, “Dude, that was weird,” or they latch on and enjoy the ride.

Though it may not translate directly into sales numbers, Bob Hope Airport has something going in its disruptive marketing. First, there’s its Twitter feed — if you want to see how a business can connect with its customers, check out the service you get for free by following Bob Hope Airport. By visiting the page before your flight, you may learn what the traffic is like around the airport as you’re leaving home, or how long security lines will take once you arrive.

One subject revisited, rehashed and re-tweeted often is the airport’s selection of music. The soundtrack is a mellow blend of ’80s Top 40 hits mixed with some Reagan-era easy listening that always hovers just out of earshot. As you board your flight for Phoenix, you might discover the Crowded House earworm you’ve been humming for the last 10 minutes came straight from the speakers above your head.

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The unobtrusive, inoffensive BUR beats are designed that way, according to airport spokesman Victor Gill.

“I have been here since 1984; I would almost call it a light motif that runs through [the airport],” he said.

The selection strikes a chord with a lot of Bob Hope visitors, many of whom just give a polite nod to the airport and thank it for the waiting music.

“I gotta say, the music at the Burbank airport is surprisingly good,” said one Tweeter in June. The airport replied, “It's hard to hate our ’80s music. :)”

I had to meet the DJ that so deftly weaves the hair bands and headbands in his signature crowd-pleasing pattern. I asked Gill to set up the interview, but he said the man responsible for the music is named Muzak.

Yes, that Muzak, butt of jokes everywhere and whose very name evokes thoughts of long, sleep-inducing waits in the dentist’s office and that trapped space of time in the elevator between where we are and where we need to be.

I can’t believe it. At some point in its 75-year history (yes, it’s been that long), the Muzak company morphed from cheesy saxophone-laden cover songs into a full-fledged streaming music service.

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