Seeburg Background Music System (1959 – 1986)

The Seeburg Background Music System was introduced in 1959 by the Seeburg Corporation to play background music in places such as offices, shops and factories. It replaced an earlier background music system called the Background Music Library that used 7-inch 45rpm EPs.

The Background Music System used a stack of 9-inch mono phonograph records with a 2-inch centre hole, playing at 16⅔ rpm. Up to 25 records could be stacked into the Seeburg unit, and both sides were played sequentially by a tonearm with needles on the top and bottom. Each record played for up to 40 minutes, and once the whole stack had been played, the process began again.

Records were distributed four times a year, in boxes of seven so only a proportion of the stack was replaced. Operators removed records in the stack with the same number as the new ones, and returned the used ones to Seeburg.

Seeburg provided three different libraries of music: Basic, Mood and Industrial (these became Lifestyle, Penthouse, and Upbeat in 1979). The Basic library consisted of mid-tempo music selected from top 40 hits, show tunes and standards. The arrangements were nearly all instrumental, featuring horns, strings and keyboards. The Mood library consisted of medium- to slow-tempo songs in lush arrangements (with primarily stringed instruments). The music was derived from standards, show tunes and some pop music; the first song on each side of each record was often a current pop hit. The Industrial library consisted of lively, medium- to quick-tempo music to induce workers to be more productive. This was perhaps the most varied and adventurous of the libraries; it contained polkas, mariachi music, twangy guitar, Hawaiian songs, and occasionally synthesizer.

For the Christmas season, the entire set of 25 records was replaced with Christmas records, and these were replaced by operators with standard records on the 26th December.

The last sets of records were sent out in 1986.

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