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How Did Elevators Lose Their Music?

How Did Elevators Lose Their Music?


·August 6, 2022


The bit about using face recognition to customize the music is cool until you think about how it would be cloud based, your face would be associated with an advertising ID, and your day-to-day comings and goings in the physical world would be tracked. But hey, it starts playing the Gorillaz when you get on so totally worth it right?


It’s all fun and games until I step onto the elevator.

If life’s taught me anything, it’s that other people don’t like the music I like and I have access to an effectively endless amount of it between Bandcamp and YouTube.


My outrun music would be amazing on an elevator full of people though.

Screeching tires, synthesizers, and engine sounds as we plunge.


Mine would definitly be an truthful emulation of the elevator crashing up/down the shaft.


Everyone was happy until I stepped on the elevator and Trout Mask Replica came on.

I always think of Johnny Rotten’s story of playing it at parties to piss people off for these examples. And I do actually like it. But I will admit I listen to Safe As Milk far more often.


Gorillaz or targeted advertisements?


Hello, Mr. Yakamoto, welcome back to the Gap! How'd those assorted tank tops work out for you?


It troubles me rather deeply how many people I have talked to about that movie who completely tuned out the whole pervasive advertising subplot. Didn't see it.

I was talking about the ads on every vertical surface in the mall, not long after the movie came out, and someone said, "I guess I didn't notice." This is how democracy dies. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Ready Player One is much more on the nose about it, but it goes by so fast people likely missed it too:

> we estimate we can sell up to 80% of an individual's visual field before inducing seizures






The benefits of having face masks normalized!


Would you be against such a system if the recognition was done entirely locally and it only sent aggregated stats (male, 30-39) to the cloud? I feel like this is coming whether we like it or not, but we (as engineers) can at least try to push it in the right direction.

My guess is it doesn't do proper face recognition but just tries to put you into a bucket. "Oh you are a female teenager, play whatever is popular for that bucket"


People are already pushing back to one-way collection of such data in public spaces, so I would guess that an implementation that does that and directly acts on it (effectively pigeonholing you in a generic musical preference cohort based on age and sex) would cause an even stronger reaction.

In the Netherlands a couple of those companies that rent out screens with advertising in the public space placed new versions that included a camera above the screen meant for measuring people's reactions to content shown, detecting demographics and mood. After public backlash they promised these were deactivated until the legal situation became clear, but by now they've stuck thick badges over these with their brand name. I guess they got sick of people putting stickers over the camera holes.


The right direction, IMO, is to keep the elevators silent. If someone implements your proposal, someone else will top that with complete tracking and the killer feature being the accurate music choice. I bet nobody would like to sign an agreement or privacy policy to use an elevator though. Less is more in this case.


This is an honest question. Stop acting like asshat redditors with the downvotes. A downvote on this is not a no vote to the question.


For what it's worth, I'm not one of the downvoters but as much as it its an honest question, it also has obvious answers. If you bucket by age/gender/race you will immediately be accused of ageism, sexism and racism. Your statistical model can even be 99.9% accurate too and it won't even matter because it will take just that 0.1% walking into an elevator, becoming offended, posting about it on Twitter and it blowing up in your face.


It's too easy to track where you've been walking inside a shopping mall, and if you're the only person in the elevator, it can trace that you were previously looking at {laptops,refrigerators,lingerie} and play an ad to promote the product to get you to seal the deal... "Today at the lingerie department we have a 20% discount!"


I've suspected for several years now that Sheetz convenience stores do this. Or possibly that the person that does their programming has an extremely diverse taste in relatively obscure music overlapping several of the songs I've engaged with on social media in the past.


I get the feeling that at some point the muzak groups did some kind of study that shows shoppers are more likely to frequent a place if they play one slightly obscure song they really like. Which will lead to places like a convenience store playing a string of obscure tracks from a large variety of genre's.

Or at least that's how I explain my local store playing a country song into some obscure song I love from 20+ years ago, into some modernish pop song.

Maybe some place has furthered this with recognition software, but I don't interact with much social media and still have noticed this.


That seems plausible, I always chalked my suspicions up to paranoia more than anything but it could still be an unsettling feeling from time to time.


This already happens.


Your day to day comings and goings in the physical world are already tracked.


.... if you keep a mobile device on you or live in a surveillance state.


the percentage of people without a mobile phone is becoming vanishingly small, and even if you don't have one, most states in the west have now implemented tracking of cars, face recognition and the like in cities and public places. Let's not forget tracking of any kind of digital spending including credit cards, which can easily clarify where you have been and when.

I guess you are still safe if you go alone in the middle of the woods without any device.


The final battle in the lord of the rings: "My brave warriors! We have already lost. Freedom is not worth fighting for. Orcs outnumber us, and they are so cruel! If we surrender to Sauron, he might choose to burn us quickly. Let's give up our swords, bend to the enemy and show them how spineless we are!"


So you interpret my comment which is a purely factual one as willingness to giving up on Privacy? OK.


In Mainland China a multitude of tech and ad companies are working to ensure that every elevator in the country has a screen and audio for a never-ending loop of commercials. Depending on the city, the coverage of premium office and residential buildings is around 100%.

For older elevators that would not allow much modification, the hardware was a DLP projector mounted under the ceiling with a top portion of the doors covered in a reflective matte sticky film. All the new elevators come with some sort of flat screen pre-installed.

Hardware is cheap, regulations are lax, it's a decent source of extra revenue for the property management companies.


The elevator in the apart-hotel I'm currently in (not China) has commercials playing non-stop on a screen. However, happily the property management has muted the volume.

I expect most property management companies will mute the advertisements, especially after complaints.

I must say that Billy Idol jumping around while mutedly singing "she cried more more more" gets more amusing every time I see it.


Elevators with a flat panel screen with ads in them were already commonplace in many downtown Vancouver BC office buildings 16-17 years ago.


I've never seen one in mainland Europe. But then again we don't have all that many highrises with regular foot traffic. It's almost exclusively office buildings.


From my last trip, my hotel in Budapest didn't have a screen, but almost every square inch of the interior of the elevator was plastered with paper adverts.

My hotel in Luxembourg (8 floors total) had 2 screens on either side of the doors to select your floor from. There were static ads in place of floor numbers, to make the floor selection look longer. After the elevator starts moving, the floor selector collapsed to a condensed view with video ads playing on both screens and over the speakers.


Me neither, but then for last 12 years I live in country that tries hard to avoid any high rises (Switzerland) since cons often outweigh pros long term and those few situations where they make sense are not happening here. Those taller buildings already standing have mostly ancient elevators.

That being said, I am practically allergic to commercials on screens. If somebody would try to shove it down my throat on a regular basis, the first think I would look for is how to sabotage/break this system while not being caught on camera(s).

There is one place in our city (Geneva), in the very center some business has put a screen in their window facing super busy street. I don't mind short adverts running there that much. But between them, they put 1s very bright white light blinking done in such an intense way it steals your attention completely and is pretty horrible to your eyes if you actually look at it. Anytime I walk around I look for a stone to throw at it. Or some silenced .22, just to make it stop (I won't do it but only due to cameras and not having a silenced .22, otherwise I would have already done it and would even feel great). Mind you, this is 2m from very busy road and intersection, so I think its an accident waiting to happen because during nighttime its pretty bad.


I recently saw such an elevator in a hotel in Valladolid, Spain. It was just a 6 story building.

Hotels have a rather hard time behind them, plus competition with AirBNB, no wonder that they are looking for every income opportunity.


> According to a white paper shared by Otis Elevator, the vertical transportation of the future will be able to recognize you as soon as you step onboard, and “the lighting, music or infotainment in the elevator cab will be tuned exactly to your preferences.”

Oh no please … not this crap again…


How about just taking me to my floor in silence? I have my own music. Let me choose the experience.


Knowing people and their preferences, the staircase will be empty, silent and slightly dusty.


Unfortunately, stairwells are often "emergency use only"


Silence is not an option.

Silence must be silenced.


Well, thankfully about the only time I ever use an elevator is when I am traveling and stay at a hotel. So... about once every 2 years.


> about once every 2 years.

I sincerely doubt it's only once, but your point stands i guess.




The elevators at Legoland Hotel play typical boring elevator music when then doors are open and switch to something upbeat, like disco when the doors close.


Isn't that a 'does the refrigerator light go out when i close the door' thing?

But i guess you mean when the doors are closed and there are people in the elevator. to know, how to know...


> Britain seems especially resistant to elevator music—again, based on a small sample size of responses to my queries. Some claim never to have heard music in an elevator in the UK, and I can’t say that surprises me.

Seems accurate. I'm from the UK and I've never heard elevator music anywhere in my entire life. For the longest time, I thought it was actually just a thing in American movies.


Same in Poland. Took me a while to realize that "elevator music" isn't an abstract name of a genre but is actually related to elevators.


My guess would be music licencing is why it's gone. Too risky.

It's one of the only places I've ever had to deal with, where if you play ANY music the big 3 consider it stolen (1 rift is enough according to them) and your legally guilty (USA), with no one ever winning a case against them. It's just pay to play, even with originals.


I don't think so, because elevators played licensed music... in fact, the term Muzak is actually a brand name, and they produced music for use in elevators and businesses.


Years back, finally realized the elevator in our office was doing a Muzak cover of Metallica's Enter Sandman. Hit me as funny once my brain connected the tune to the originating source.


Decades ago I knew a piano player who got the gig at a nice atrium hotel piano bar.

It was called Beethoven's and you had to be good, even though you were going to be playing instrumentals somewhat in the background. He didn't read music or play classical but he could play anything he heard, was wickedly good at faking it and amazed them at stealthily playing pop tunes in classical style.

He would play from 4 to 8, five days a week.

They had a beautifully-tuned well-polished Steinway featured in a corner area of the bar that was overlooking the open-air dining room below. The piano was on a little riser and the back walls were smoothly mirrorized other than a small stainless audio jackplate right near the piano stool.

Every day he would come in wearing his tuxedo, sit down at the instrument, unplug the piped hotel Muzak from the jackplate, and plug himself into it instead.

He could be kind of bold when taking requests from the bar patrons, but down in the dining area it was always a nice background effect.

And of course when you used the elevators or the bathrooms, he was live for your listening pleasure.

All beautiful, all music, all the time.


Stores continue to play music throughout without much issue.

I think the answer might be a lot more mundane. Other posters mention that department stores were a big source of elevators that played music. Department stores in the US are mostly dead, and their physical replacements (big box stores like Target and Walmart) are single-story affairs, so they're playing music, just in buildings without elevators.


If you want to play music in your business, you typically need a commercial license to do so. Spotify, for example, offers a commercial account that's more expensive and has most of the same catalog. Other streaming sites offer a similar plan. SiriusXM even offers you a way to insert your own audio clips in-between songs.


Right, my point is that department stores did similar stuff, the only difference is that department stores have elevators and big box stores are generally single-story, so the reason you don't hear music in elevators anymore is because there is no elevator to play the music in.


Why don't they play ads with catchy melodies though? (Not that I would want that)

After all, for a moment they have a monopoly on your attention.

The same holds for public restrooms.


I think with public restrooms the issue would be association. You want advertising to produce positive associations, and I imagine most people have negative associations with public restrooms.


Goal is throughput. You want people in and out fast and something interesting might combat that.


I don't think licensing is real issue. The type of music and thus license would be different from other platforms. And getting one for specific use case with unlimited use likely wouldn't be that expensive.


When I travelled around East Asia (Korea, Taiwan, Japan) it felt like every second hotel breakfast buffet used the same album of Studio Ghibli piano covers.


No, the store just gets a license for commercial use. Muzak might have been among the first, with "light classics" like Andre Kostelanz.

I do notice the background music at Trader Joe's. It's typically upbeat Boomer pop. If they played Ascension they'd empty out the store.


Did not expect to see that namedrop this morning! “Kostelanetz” by the way.


tnx, it looked wrong but I was too lazy to look it up.


> How Did Elevators Lose Their Music?

The question is asked, but not answered.

Regarding the music itself, we get one mention of Brian Eno in the penultimate paragraph, as a side, and none of Erik Satie (who invented the genre in 1917 [0]).

This is a kind of content-free article. Literature for elevators maybe.



If I were to take a broad swing at the reason I'd say the music covers the noise of the elevator. As they got quieter the music was made redundant.


Quite possibly the reason. Though, I think retail, in general, has become quieter, outside of supermarkets (for some reason).

In some ways, it feels like as visual aesthetics went minimalist, so did the soundscape.

I'd personally like to hear an even quieter soundscape. It's so annoying to be sitting in a bar or hotel with sound blasting at you. It's like they expect people fear being alone with their thoughts or to be unable to make conversation when together, so they feel the need to fill the void.


Gioia is writing for an audience that already knows about the Eno/Satie genealogy.

This article is the trend: “lose”


But the gas station owners are less interested in providing music, and far more excited about the prospect of force-feeding me advertisements.

Elevator owners are already there, the ones I use all have advertising screens in them just like the gas pumps.


These have been a thing for years and years now in Las Vegas. A little screen shouting ads at you for shows, restaurants, etc.

Somehow it didn't bother me then, because everything in that godforsaken city is loud and obnoxious. So it just kinda fit in.

But if elevators at typical office buildings or apartment complexes start doing this? We're doomed.


Office buildings near me have them, they try to make them appear as "infotainment" to quote Otis in the article.

A news headline and then ads for everything from food to cars to podcasts. Another headline, more ads.


Oh my god I forgot about that. Yeah, the high-rise my old company was in had those as well. A cheery, "Here's what's happening in the world" with some quick headlines, then an ad for Jimmy Fallon or something.

We were on the 45th floor, so there was plenty of captive time.


Helsinki city transit does that, and there's zero attempt at sync. So an interesting headline pops up, and then maybe about 500ms in it cuts to a wildly animated ad for some crap or another. So it's not just irritating, it is aggressively obnoxious. You wanted to read this story ? HAH HAH, sucker!


> But if elevators at typical office buildings or apartment complexes start doing this? We're doomed.

The high-rise building I worked in several years ago put ad screens in the elevators. No sound, fortunately - but still! Video ads in your face, on the way to work, on the way to lunch, up and down, over and over, every day? It was more than I could stand.

I bought a roll of privacy film, cut pieces sized to the screens, and kept them in my bag. Every time I was alone in the elevator, I'd pull one out and glue it to the screen. Ahh, tranquility: the ads dissolved into a meaningless colorful blur.

Of course the maintenance folks would scrape the film off whenever they found it, but I just glued it back on, over and over... for months.


They already did this in commerical buildings in HK, luckily they are muted banner-like advertisements.


Can't ride the subway or even take a piss without having a screen with ads running in your face.


Back in the day places used to clip daily-local newspaper above urinal. The "business" bars had WSJ.


Pisses me off in London. It costs say £2.50 to take a journey, but the adverts reduce that price to £2.30.

Adverts on trains are even worse, I pay £100+ for a ticket and have to suffer the adverts because they want to get another 50p or whatever.

So I'll drive instead. Although the M6 seems to have more and more adverts in fields along it as time does on.

When I'm dictator of the world I'll ban all adverts, they are a drain on society.


At the gas pumps around here (Seattle) someone is labelling the unmarked mute button with a marker (right side second button from the top).


I'm not sure what happened, but out here every single gas station got rid of that. Especially the screen above the pump.


Not always. Press them all till it stops.


power drill also works


Just this is reason enough to go EV and charge mostly at home. But you know the fast charger networks will try this - but it takes enough time to charge that the user walks away for coffee and bathrooms, so the audience is much less captive


My favorite thing about these is that the content network's brand name is Captivate. As in a literally captive audience.




"just like gas pumps"

If your country doesn't have those (yet), it almost reads like satire.


> According to a white paper shared by Otis Elevator, the vertical transportation of the future will be able to recognize you as soon as you step onboard

I am unavoidably reminded of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s Happy Vertical People Transporters.


Is that how you like it, Mr. Beeblebrox?!!!!


I read a book titled Elevator Music by Joseph Lanza and am sad to say that I don't remember much about it other than that slaughterhouses played elevator music for the cattle to calm them before the slaughter, and an anecdote about an orchestra conductor who yelled at a hotel manager words to the effect of, "I'm trying to make my musicians more sensitive to music, not less!"

Edit: I forgot that the book also mentions a German category, Gebrauchsmusik, or utility music:


When I lived in a 50+ story high-rise, I always liked to imagine subtle MIDI versions of Creed's "Higher" playing on the way up and Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" playing on the way down. Especially on the way to and from the laundry room ~40 floors away from my apartment.


> I’ve consulted the websites of various elevator manufacturers, and am pleased to learn that they are planning next generation music for our high-rise journeys. According to a white paper shared by Otis Elevator, the vertical transportation of the future will be able to recognize you as soon as you step onboard, and “the lighting, music or infotainment in the elevator cab will be tuned exactly to your preferences.”

Time to start lobbying making privacy masks for the public. For now, my COVID mask will do.


> Time to start lobbying making privacy masks for the public.

It’s called a Guy Fawkes mask.


Preferably a home made one, right? If you get the one from the film they either need to pay for the rights or it's an unlicensed knockoff. Not sure either is that great.


They existed before the film. There are no royalitie, especially since the owner died a long time ago. Anyone who wants royalities is ripping you off.


How you source your privacy protecting Guy Fawkes masks is between you, your God, a hacker named 4chan and the NSA who is probably listening in. I on the other hand don’t particularly care.