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Burb’s Eye View: Muzak to your waiting ears

In marketing class, it’s called disruption: A business does something completely out of the ordinary for its industry, and customers either say, “Dude, that was weird,” or they latch on and enjoy the ride.

Though it may not translate directly into sales numbers, Bob Hope Airport has something going in its disruptive marketing. First, there’s its Twitter feed — if you want to see how a business can connect with its customers, check out the service you get for free by following Bob Hope Airport. By visiting the page before your flight, you may learn what the traffic is like around the airport as you’re leaving home, or how long security lines will take once you arrive.

One subject revisited, rehashed and re-tweeted often is the airport’s selection of music. The soundtrack is a mellow blend of ’80s Top 40 hits mixed with some Reagan-era easy listening that always hovers just out of earshot. As you board your flight for Phoenix, you might discover the Crowded House earworm you’ve been humming for the last 10 minutes came straight from the speakers above your head.

The unobtrusive, inoffensive BUR beats are designed that way, according to airport spokesman Victor Gill.


“I have been here since 1984; I would almost call it a light motif that runs through [the airport],” he said.

The selection strikes a chord with a lot of Bob Hope visitors, many of whom just give a polite nod to the airport and thank it for the waiting music.

“I gotta say, the music at the Burbank airport is surprisingly good,” said one Tweeter in June. The airport replied, “It’s hard to hate our ’80s music. :)”

I had to meet the DJ that so deftly weaves the hair bands and headbands in his signature crowd-pleasing pattern. I asked Gill to set up the interview, but he said the man responsible for the music is named Muzak.


Yes, that Muzak, butt of jokes everywhere and whose very name evokes thoughts of long, sleep-inducing waits in the dentist’s office and that trapped space of time in the elevator between where we are and where we need to be.

I can’t believe it. At some point in its 75-year history (yes, it’s been that long), the Muzak company morphed from cheesy saxophone-laden cover songs into a full-fledged streaming music service.

I visit its website and find a sample of its ‘80s selection. The Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” pops on my computer speakers. From the other side of the room, my wife pipes up, “I love that song!” Another unknowing Muzak fan.

Recently, I chatted with frequent BUR traveler and Lincoln Street resident Christine Tse Kuecherer about her travel experiences. As a former Yahoo employee, she frequently commuted to San Jose via BUR, where she preferred its selection of Men at Work and Billy Joel to the ’70s slow pop of Los Angeles International Airport.

“I’ve had vendors come to BUR and remark on it,” she said. “It’s part of the total Burbank experience.”

That experience includes talking to someone — the airport itself, presumably — about anything at any time through Twitter. Through its social media channels, Bob Hope Airport will tell you the best place to watch planes is at the top of its parking garage.

Will that in itself increase its revenue this quarter? No. But keeping its customers happy and in a constant state of two-way communication is Business 101.

It’s what keeps tweeters like Rose Hart-Landsberg saying, “Right on Burbank Airport! The music is kickin’ today.”


She received a thank you from BUR.

Of course, too much intrusion in a customer base can prompt reactions like hers: “Dude the airport tweeted me. Weird.”

BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not jamming to smooth airport sounds, he can be reached at and on Twitter @818NewGuy.