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In Muzak battle, Stingray snags eMedia’s Canadian accounts

Marcela Barsse/iStockphoto

You could call it another blow in the battle for Muzak, if Muzak still technically existed.

Four years after the company declared bankruptcy, its essence – the soft, familiar musical tones heard in commercial businesses the world over – has birthed a hotbed of Canadian business activity, as two homegrown companies vie for international in-store music market share.

On Wednesday afternoon, Montreal's Stingray Digital Group announced it will buy the Canadian accounts of Vancouver-based eMedia Networks International, a public company that offers in-store music, for $2-million. The acquisition itself is small, but it solidifies Canada as the world-leading commercial music provider.

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The transaction adds another 5,000 retail locations to Stingray's arsenal of in-store music clients, pushing its total to 61,000 in Canada. That further cements Stingray as the No. 1 provider of in-store music in the country and the No. 2 provider worldwide. Globally, the top spot also falls to a company with Canadian roots: Mood Media Corp., founded in Toronto, bought Muzak in 2011, and provides services to more than 570,000 commercial locations.

"It's not a big deal financially, but it shows how Canadians are taking over the world," said Eric Boyko, Stingray's chief executive and co-founder, in an interview late Wednesday afternoon.

The acquisition – which puts the company's Stingray360 services in such franchises as Roots, Chapters/Indigo and Ardene – gives Stingray roughly 80 per cent of the in-store music market in Canada. (Stingray, eMedia and Mood Media all also offer digital signage and in-store scent branding to commercial clients.)

Coincidentally, Stingray also acts as Mood Media's franchisee in Canada – it bought the Muzak Canadian rights two years before Mood Media bought the international company outright. (In the commercial music provider business, country-specific acquisitions have become the norm in the past decade, frequently leading to this kind of overlap.)

Stingray is already one of the world's leading multiplatform music providers, reaching nearly 80 million homes in 71 countries through TV stations like Galaxie – those unassuming music-playing channels you turn on for background music – ConcertTV and The Karaoke Channel.

Mood Media, which is listed on the TSX and incorporated in Canada, began in the Toronto area but has been based near Charlotte, N.C., since it acquired Muzak in 2011. It is in the process of moving its global headquarters to Austin, Tex., the former home of DMX Holdings, another in-store media provider that the company bought in 2012.

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