I just came across a word for "music playing in a mall" in some song's lyrics or an article. Mostly a song(latest pop), can't recall.

Reverse dictionary help?

PS: It might begin with a "P"

  • 6
    You already accepted Lawrence's answer, but just in case, another Wikipedia page mentions "piped music" as another word for "elevator music". Maybe you were thinking of that.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 11:07
  • it's simply "background music" (note that, unrelatedly, that can also mean the music in films.) Note that if you look up the defition of the trademark "Muzak", it simply describes it as "background music."
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:50
  • "Piped music" is another less common term for background music. And "elevator music" or "waiting music" (mainly on elevators, phones, respectively) is the same sort of thing.
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:52
  • 1
    @Fattie: In the most common usage (in the US), it's simply "muzak" with no capital (and spoken in a tone of scorn/disgust). Like many another example, the trademark has become a generic term.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 18:09
  • 2
    Hmm, @jamesqf. At the local mall, for background music, they just play normal pop music (ie, the actual original versions, ie by Madonna, Justin Bieber, etc etc). Nobody would call it "muzak", I don't think. In contrast at some malls they do play "muzak" (ie, instrumental only, no singing, not the original actual track from the artists, endless loop with no breaks, that soft edgeless sound - muzak. totally different from "original pop tracks" - it has no words, etc.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 18:19

6 Answers 6


You might be thinking of Muzak:

Muzak is a brand of background music played in retail stores and other public establishments. In 1981, Westinghouse bought the company and ran it until selling it to the Fields Company of Chicago, publishers of the Chicago Sun-Times, on September 8, 1986. Formerly owned by Muzak Holdings, the brand was purchased in 2011 by Mood Media in a deal worth US$345 million. - Wikipedia

It doesn't start with P, but it appears that there is a song that includes the word muzak in its lyrics, and the band name starts with P:

The Sound of Muzak by Porcupine Tree

  • 19
    The "P" is silent. And invisible :-) Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 10:36
  • 15
    Worth noting that Muzak has become an eponym to some extent, though perhaps not quite as popular as Kleenex, Thermos, or Band-Aid, for any form of background or elevator music.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 11:28
  • 3
    @cobaltduck: And a pejorative by many.
    – wallyk
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:34
  • 2
    Muzak is a particular type of music. It is exactly like saying "Jazz" or "Classical". It's that strange, "rounded off, softened" for of music that is, well, Muzak. It's difficult to describe unless you hear it. By no means is all background music "Muzak". In the US, it's much more common these days (example - Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds) that they play, simply normal pop songs. (Dunkin Donuts has it's own in=house "radio station", which indeed is a big affair in itself given the size of the chain. They don't play any Muzak at all.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:51
  • 1
    Note that Muzak is instrumental only. If you hear it, you'll know it! There are a number famous stories about famous musicians (Led Zepplin, etc) being in an elevator, and suddenly hearing one of their famous heavy rock songs .... rendered as "Muzak" !
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 17:58

If you want a term that begins with a P and is more formal than "muzak", then the term you're probably looking for is Piped Music

Piped music is recorded music which is played in some supermarkets, restaurants, and other public places. (Collins English Dictionary)


Besides Muzak the term elevator music is common, too. Merriam-Webster has an entry for it. Their definition includes music played at retail stores ;-).

At least closely related is the term Ambient Music which has not been mentioned yet. Brian Eno popularized the term with his album Ambient 1: Music for Airports in 1978. The music was explicitly meant to serve as an acoustic background in public spaces.


Lawrence already mentioned the band Porcupine Tree and their song "The Sound of Muzak". In its lyrics this type of background music is referred to as "Elevator Prozac".

Hear the sound of music
Drifting in the aisles
Elevator Prozac
Stretching on for miles

Could this be the 'P' you're thinking of?

  • 1
    Again this is more of a comment, but this thread doesn't stop to blow my mind.
    – technazi
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 9:30
  • Those were the 2 words I did not know in that song.
    – technazi
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 9:33

It is music specifically designed for shopping. Shopping Music. Tom Waits calls it out as good music for romantic conversation in the intro to "Better off without a wife" on "Nighthawks at the diner".

Put a little nice music on, maybe you put on some shopping music, something that's not too interruptive. Then you slide over real nice...

Now granted he's talking about taking himself out on a date, but calling it shopping music evokes the proper emotion in anyone who has ever experienced it.

  • Tom Waits taking himself out on a date? Oh boy, that invokes some very bad imagery. Twice the booze, twice the cigarette butts...
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 7:30
  • It's a hoot. Give it a listen. youtube.com/watch?v=rU-sCw1xnLU
    – jorfus
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 23:07

If you're thinking of live music being played impromptu for donations in a public setting, the word generally used is "busking".

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