Muzak Song Listing

At work, I am serenaded by the Jukebox Gold channel from the music service Muzak (although lately I haven’t noticed this as much…perhaps it’s been changed?). While I can check what songs are current playing, the song listing became a frequent-enough item of discussion with coworkers that I wanted to have a history of the songs to see how often some were played. (2013 update: The Muzak Now Playing link may vary. The original one is no longer functional.)

So I set up a simple PHP script as a cron job to run every minute to start grabbing the current song off the channel’s now playing list and added it to a database.

The finished result of the project can be seen on Muzak Songs page.

Lo and behold, I was actually contacted by Muzak within a few weeks of putting up that page:

From: <omitted>
Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2010 6:48 AM
To: Ross Bender
Subject: Muzak

Hi Ross,
I noticed your Muzak song database on a Google alert. I’m intrigued by your comment about our playlists becoming a “frequent-enough item of discussion” and that you took the time to program the query. I hope that is because you and your colleagues enjoy the programming, but I wanted to reach out and make sure that comment wasn’t reflective of any dissatisfaction. We craft our playlists to create the best experience and have measures in place to create artist and title separation. If you’re experiencing anything to the contrary, or have any kind of feedback to share, please let me know. If one is Rick Rolled too often, it loses its novelty and unique element of surprise. :)
Thank you for your business!

I, of course, couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste. I spent some time crafting my reply:

From: Ross Bender
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 7:51 AM
To: <omitted>
Subject: Re: Muzak


Thanks for your email. It was an interesting surprise. It’s neat to see Muzak taking an active part in getting user feedback.

I have just a few thoughts that I’d like to share about your music service. I’m not sure what the normal environments in which they are most often used/played, but in my workplace it is in a desk/cubicle environment. The service is maybe geared more toward walk-in/walk-out type of businesses, or more generally places which people are in and out, not around for an extended period of time. I bring this up because I hear Muzak in the environment in which I work all day. I think because of that fact, the song list that is played seems a lot shorter. Even a song replayed every few days seems to be fairly frequent.

I’ve been tracking the Jukebox Gold channel since August 22nd, and have just under 8,000 songs that have been played since then. Today is September 9th, or 18 days from when I first started tracking what was being played. 8,000 total songs divided by 18 days means there is an average of 444 songs played a day. Since I am typically only at work for 8 hours, let’s only take a third of that, or right around 150. So at work I hear (roughly) 150 songs a day.

From the data I’ve gathered, I did just a few quick queries to see how often songs are played. Now, the total number of unique song names I found was only 1,500 or so. So since Auguest 22nd, only 1,500 different songs have been played. For the sake of example, let’s say that a song is played, then every other 1499 songs are played, and then our unique song is played again. (In reality, it’s not like that. But this is for the sake of example.) If this was the case, 1,500 different songs / 150 songs per day means after I heard a song, I wouldn’t hear it again for 10 days. But that’s excluding the fact that most (2/3rds) of those songs are played when I’m not at work. So 1,500 / 3 is 500. 500 songs at 150 songs a day is 3 and 1/3rd days. That means that if songs were played in continuous, direct order, I would still hear the same song every 3 days.

(Side note: the same math…and perhaps an easier route…is that 8,000 songs divided by 18 days means there are 444 songs played every day. 1,500 different songs divided by 444 songs a day would last 3 and 1/3rd days.)

So I realize those stats got pretty muddled. But hopefully you see what I’m getting at. To me, hearing the same song every three days is pretty common. Doing some random queries on certain song names shows that some songs are definitely played more than every three days. And of all of the 8,000 songs, there are only 650 different artists.

If I could sum up what I am trying to say, it would be that the variety and title/artist separation seems to be limited by the overall total number of songs and artists. I’m sure Muzak works hard to maintain a good artist and title separation, but at the end of the day if there aren’t enough songs, the channel is going to seem repetitive.

Thanks much for your time, and hopefully my thoughts contribute to making Muzak a more enjoyable experience for all.

Ross Bender

(All thoughts expressed in this email are my own and are in no way representative of my coworkers or my employer.)

After I sent my email, I never heard a response. I think I my have overdone it with my sketchy “logic”.

But nonetheless, it was a fun project. It was the first time I’d worked with a paginating JavaScript table (which pulled directly from a database). It took a bit of configuration, especially when I added the custom queries. I’m no long collecting any data on the project, but in the meantime, feel free to run random queries on the songs. Can you find the most played song?


One Response to “Muzak Song Listing”

  1. mom

    Mr Walek would be happy to know you are using your math skills.