Safety dance

"Music tames the savage beast." It also soothes the panicky dental patient, minimizes stress, and conveys an atmosphere of calm, or one of energetic efficiency (depending on where your radio dial is tuned).

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

"Music tames the savage beast." It also soothes the panicky dental patient, minimizes stress, and conveys an atmosphere of calm, or one of energetic efficiency (depending on where your radio dial is tuned).

Many of you have noticed a music theme to my column titles. I have always had a hand in the business, from playing in rock bands in the 60s and 70s to keeping up with the latest Internet trends. This interest has led me to conduct an informal survey of music in dental practices. Generally, there are two types of office music: whatever the doctor likes, and whatever the doctor thinks his patients like. Whatever the style, it is in part a reflection of the practice. Patients sense the difference of an office that plays "Aida" vs. one that blasts "Tommy" through the speakers. However, my quest went beyond the type of music played. I decided to look at how the music is broadcast throughout dental offices.

The first broadcast systems used the basic central receiver with ceiling speakers. Volume controls in each room were a later innovation. Then came multiple sources. Initially, it was sufficient to have a stereo receiver with a cassette player. CD players ultimately replaced cassettes. Multi-CD jukeboxes are the latest in multiple source stereo systems. Some hold over 100 CDs and play tracks randomly from the music library. More elaborate systems have speakers that can be mounted in the corners of operatories, waiting areas, etc. Others, including the system I own, have multiple sources that can play different selections in each room. The hygienist can listen to an oldies station in her operatory while I play my "Yes" CD in my rooms. Still others prefer to utilize headphones with either the central source or a separate, portable player.

Now that the Internet and cable have entered the fray, there are even more sources. Free music downloading sites like Napster, Audiogalaxy, and KaZaA have burst onto the scene, and the attitude has become "Why pay for a music service?" Criticizing services like Muzak, which charges a monthly fee to pipe background music to offices, has become an art form. But there is a moral basis for those fees; it's called a "copyright." These services pay a royalty to artists or whoever owns the rights to a song, and then passes those fees along to subscribers.

Think of it as a salary that artists receive in return for their "work" in creating a song. Music piracy denies artists their rightful compensation.

Dentists may be unaware of the fact that any public establishment that broadcasts music must pay a fee to a music licensing agency, such as BMI, ASCAP, SESAK, RIAA, and others. The rules and regulations regarding public rebroadcast are complex; however, they are largely ignored because these agencies lack the resources to enforce them, and because most dental offices that provide music do not profit from the rebroadcast. However, downloading music from the Internet and rebroadcasting it in your office is a violation of the law and is subject to copyright fines.

True story: Bruce Murphy, DDS, of Ottawa, was in the band "Men Without Hats." In 1983, the band scored a No.3 top 40 hit with "Safety Dance." For years the band would get a few dollars from sales, broadcast, etc. He has lately received few if any royalties, and believes Internet piracy is the reason. Says Murphy, "My take on Napster and Morpheus is that it's theft of intellectual property ... Any other point of view is simply indefensible."

However, according to record producer Steve Webber, "The cat is out of the bag. The internet will now be the primary source for media distribution. There is a frantic search in the industry going on right now about how to deliver the music of the future. The peer to peer network is already in place."

I will be following this column with a more in-depth look at this situation. And, as always, I encourage my readers to comment and contribute. We can dance if we want to ...

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers when he placed a system in his office in 1978, and he has been fascinated by technology ever since. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions in New England, including annual appearances at the Yankee Dental Congress, and has been a part of the ADA's Technology Day since its inception. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersinden tistry.com) and can be reached by email at drpaul@computersindentistry.com.

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