Background music refers to various styles of music or soundscapes primarily intended to be passively listened to. It is not meant to be the main focus of an audience, but rather to supplement that which is meant to be focused upon. Music that is played at a low volume and is not the main focus of an audience is also referred to as background music. Traditional examples of background music include music played at various social gatherings and music played in certain retail venues. It is also common to employ background music in various electronic media including film, television, and Internet videos such as video blogs.
- French kings of the baroque era could have music performed during their stately dinners.
- Opera or other public music performances could have such a high "social function" character that few people would actually listen to the music being performed.
The term Ambient music is generally used when more, but often less distinguishable, influences, like elements of Jazz or sounds from nature, are mingled in the "soundscape". However, some producers and composers of "ambient music" or "soundscapes" (as well as similar types of music) might not intend to use the qualifier "background" for their music.
Incidental music is music in a play, radio/TV program or some other form that is not primarily musical, adding atmosphere to the action. It can be dated back at least as far as Greek drama. A number of classical composers have written incidental music for various plays.
The term Furniture music was coined by Erik Satie in 1917. It fell into disuse when the composer died a few years later, and the genre was revived several decades later. Typical of Furniture music are short musical passages, with an indefinite number of repeats.
Elevator music is a more general term indicating music that is played in rooms where many people come together (that is, with no intention whatsoever to listen to music). There is a specific sound associated with elevator music, usually involving themes from "soft" popular music or "light" classical music being worked over by slow strings. This type of music was produced, for instance, by the Mantovani Orchestra, and conductors like Franck Pourcel and James Last, peaking in popularity around the 1970s.
Video game and blog music
Background music (often abbreviated "BGM") is the music in video games (sometimes written "VGM") and music in websites.
Internet delivered background music
In recent years the proliferation of Internet delivered background music by such companies as Trusonic has gained traction. This allows the retailer to instantly update music and messages which are deployed at the store level as opposed to using older compact disc and satellite technologies.