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Elevator Music, Companion for the Long Haul


By Naomi Millán Elevators

The traditional image of early-generation elevators in institutional and commercial buildings is not pretty: loud, dizzying, rickety, and dangerous. As a result of this stereotype, many people falsely believe elevator music was developed to distract passengers from the dangers around them.

In fact, early passengers actually might have been bored, not scared, to death, according to Atlas Obscura. The real reason for the rise of elevator music — a phenomenon younger readers might never have experienced first-hand, as it faded away by the 1970s — was to distract facility occupants from the potential length of an elevator ride.

Building owners also used the bland background music as a market differentiator, since only Class A buildings could afford such a luxury. At its apex, canned music also spread to elevator lobbies and even the office space, where it was purported to improve productivity, according to the article.

Though elevator music has fallen out of favor, the length of wait and travel time remains a sore point. Elevator manufacturers have responded with destination dispatch technology, faster cars, and in-car entertainment screens showing building information or other programming. Another strategy facility managers could consider is a trick a former chief executive of an elevator parts business is quoted as saying he deployed once in an elevator on the Upper East Side of New York City. He installed a mirror above the push buttons, and the people in the car were too distracted looking at themselves to notice the length of the ride.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management

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