Industrial Music (aka Factory Music)
Factory music has been used to influence the productivity and morale of workers for most of its nearly 100 years, since early studies of its effects.* It was part of manufacturs' efforts during World War II, when frivolities were not tolerated. So, no, it wasn't about offering simple pleasures to factory workers, it was about the results of their industry. Long before ROI became an acronym, Uncle Sam (or his contractors) was using industrial music to influence productivity at factories in measurable ways.
This really isn't about elevator music, although you might still hear it in an elevator. But more likely, it was playing somewhere you didn't notice, seamlessly fitting its space and affecting your pace and mood without notice. Sometimes, if you notice the music, it isn't doing its job. But only sometimes.
*This type of industrial factory music should not be confused with the "industrial music" genre. Here we are discussing music played in actual industrial and factory settings, where it might be considered appropriate by some to use music methodically to manipulate workers' productivity.
Factory music experts
…don't try this on your own. Do your research, but use it to learn who to call and how to recognize a good industrial music designer-provider when you see one. The potent nuances of pacing and time-of-day, even seasonality — whether working in industrial factory music or background office music or retail soundscape — must be adjusted for type of activity and how mentally boring or physically strenuous it might be. That and more must be translated into a set of playlist songs, or music soundtracks, that apply the right aural touch for the specific situation at any given time. There are so many variables, all full of subtle nuance, that it's understandable why some would call it a pseudo-science. But it is hard to argue with the studies and a century of applying industrial music to measurable benefit.
That's why they make professionals. After some initial research, you know enough to interview potential providers. If you are looking specifically for factory music, say so, and inquire about their experience in that sub-field. If they keep referring to office music or background music, again ask them politely about industrial factory music and achieving measurable effects on productivity and morale, because although this is a small field, it has many sub-specialties. Treat your first interview or two as a chance to expand your knowledge of how their business works. (And if you get put on hold, see what kind of company music they play, if any, through the telephone.)
An Office Code of Musical Conduct, or Office Music Policy
It helps to codify what constitutes appropriate music in a factory or industrial setting, even if you don't hire an outside company music provider. If your workers know the policy, they know what to expect. The policy should be clear without feeling confining or overly restrictive. Such an office code is unique to each company, in its specifics, but should address issues such as:
- volume: when it must be adjusted, and the discretion to control it at other times
- even if your playlists — the lists of songs played in your factory or office — are fixed, give staff a way to express their likes and disklikes (anonymous, of course), and really pass the tallied information back to the vendor
- times of day or occasions when the factory music is to be muted, listing who is responsible for seeing it done properly
- overriding or cancelling music during alarms and factory-wide announcements
- an easy way for employees to communicate about the music to their superiors and/or management
- if multiple channels exist, and if it is permissible to change channels, who is permitted to do so, and under what factory, industrial or office conditions
Share your own workplace music policy suggestions with us. We may add them to the list shown here!
Royalties, governing bodies
Music belongs to those who make, publish and distribute it, and to those who legally acquire certain rights to it. We might be accustomed to listening to commercial radio without paying, but the radio station pays for the music it plays and, as soon as you start broadcasting it — even if only to your business office or onto an industrial factory floor — you must pay, too. Rates typically adjust to the size of the listening audience and perhaps to the importance of the music to the primary business, so often there are affordable options for even smaller, slim-margin operations.
For typical office and industry playlists, this could add up to a fair amount of paperwork and administrative overhead. But performance-rights organizations (PROs) handle the collection, administration and distribution of monies owed as a result of the copyrights and royalties associated with each published song. If you use a factory music service provider, they normally handle the PROs as part of their service to you. This is appropriate, as most companies prefer to focus on their own areas of expertise and use outside specialists in industrial music and factory music.
The factory music service provider you choose can help you to define a clear objective for your audio architecture. They may also help measure changes in productivity and morale, depending on your budget for obtaining such data, but you could use a third party to audit the results for impartiality. Your provider may also have useful suggestions for the office code (see inset) and a wealth of pertinent musical and psychological knowledge to bring to your company.
Performance Rights Organizations*
In the U.S.A.:
- ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers)
- BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated)
- SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
- SOCAN (formerly PROCAN and CAPAC)
- CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, Ltd.)
- SODRAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
- SPACQ (Société Professionnelle des Auteurs et des Compositeurs du Québec)
* Outside the U.S.A., PROs often are referred to as copyright collection societies.