The Music of Airlines

there's music in the air

When I was a kid, a record presented itself to me. It was one of the more unusual additions to my collection in that this was not by an artist, nor was it a soundtrack. No, this was a collection called.. There’s Music in the Air! An LP album that featured all sorts of curiosities from the theme to then hip and cool TV show Hawaii 5-0 (the Magnum PI or CSI of its day) to The Age of Aquarius. It also seemed to have some sort of allegiance to Australian airline QANTAS. Better still when the gate-fold was open (for those who may be too young to remember; this was a 12” vinyl record cover that opened like a gate hence its name) revealed a huge image of the brand spanking new 747B resplendent in QANTAS livery. At that time a tan cheat-line along its fuselage and the deep red tail fin with what is now the old kangaroo. I was probably more excited about that than any of the music on it. *During research for this piece I found there is also a second volume with almost identical cover, save for the inclusion of the word QANTASTIC, released a few years later.

there's music in the air vol2-qantastic gatefold

airfrance music

Recently while cruising through the social environs of the ether I came across Air France Music! Could this be There’s Music in the Air for the digital age with an Air France A380 adorning it? Well, I guess not in that there won’t be much of an image at all now in the iGeneration, as artwork has been reduced to not much more than the size of a postage stamp (which are in turn becoming something of an endangered species). So what is Air France Music? And whatever it is, did other airlines have similar? According to their Facebook page AF music is a unique selection indicative to ‘the art of travel; an invite to a sensory journey’ – sounding very French so far. It continues, ‘that you may replenish yourself while being sonically showered by content from established and unknown musicians.’ As one might expect the French are way ahead on style and innovation, an image on the website displays a stylus arm resting at the start of a white vinyl record, effortlessly adding French flair.

airfrance music-white vinyl

However, the French are not in isolation, Air New Zealand are also pioneers of inflight experience. They not only have programmers based worldwide but analyse their routes and tailor the music to passengers accordingly. How’s that for gliding on the cultural gravy train! This gives the term something for everyone an 180° twist. Of course how one gets to become a programmer remains unanswered. Sounds like a great job no? Finnair meanwhile take what can only be described as a very Scandinavian or, just in case I’ve got that wrong, a northern European approach. The music is chosen by content service providers (sounds similar to the Air NZ role above – must look into this) then formed into specific channels by outsourced editors at MixRadio. With a catalogue of 30 million songs it would seem they have the world of music pretty much covered.

As for QANTAS itself, they have a vested interest in supporting Australian artists, not an altogether shocking revelation to me. As a big fan of Aussie acts back in the day, just about every record label proudly proclaimed AUSTRALIAN PERFORMANCE, AUSTRALIAN COMPOSITION. Now those were the days. But what of the Qantas customer? Well the airline adopts a tablecloth approach of laying out the condiments to appeal to most tastes, say rock, pop, jazz etc. Like their neighbours across the Tasman they look at statistics to gauge what the listener is tuning into to. Somehow the age of Aquarius may have been left behind in favour of the age of Adele, AKON or the Aphex Twin. Which leaves me with only one conclusion. Whatever you’re listening to up there, it’s bound to be Qantastic!

Big thanks to those who responded and especially to Rach at Qantas.


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