Muzak Kollection: The Kmart Tapes

by criticalhit009

Time to resurrect this series in light of the digital release of Kmart Background store music from 1989-1993. Some wonderful soul saved all the in store background music for those 4 years as he works at the Kmart service desk, saving them and dutifully uploading the archive.org.

What can we learn from analyzing this archive? For one, we can see that the things that are intended to be ephemeral and disposable are indeed reflections of the time. It acts like a time capsule, stunning in its banality.

The type of ads within the music tapes certainly show the style. Whereas current in store advertisements will occasionally have a mix of sounds (Illustrating how advanced we’ve become as consumers to understanding sound mixing), the ads in these tapes are merely speeches from a respectable, undisclosed male narrator.

October 1989 is one tape I’ve listened to, and I was surprised to hear Christmas music already permeating the background music. There is always ire over Christmas shopping season coming earlier and earlier into stores, but this indicates this was a long established tradition. After all, any delay in holiday celebration means no impetus from traditions to spend, spend, spend.

The music on the tapes are mid-tempo (to slow down your pace and shop more), but also completely safe and banal (so it doesn’t distract from shopping, or accidentally offend.) These tapes are a reflection of the inner machinations of the store itself. It’s not a neutral space where staff and consumers come together in a market, but a place where consumers navigate through various aural and physical designs to influence you to shop.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this intended purpose, the tapes are a quirky delight, a humorous look to the past. Now all we need are music remixes of this newly opened archive.

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