Kmart's In-store Music Was The Best Radio Station In The 80s And 90s

Dec 2, 2015 By John-Michael Bond

Before satellite radio, stores had limited options for playing music for their shoppers. They could play the radio, but they’d have no control over what was played or, worse if ad’s for a rival company might get played. Rather than playing an album stores would curate their own in-store mixes, complete with store specific advertisements. 

Recently a massive stockpile of K-Mart in-store music tapes were uploaded to Archive.Org revealing one of the great secrets of the late 80s and early 90s. Did you know K-Mart accidentally ran one of the best radio stations you’ve never heard? Seriously, these snapshots of the store’s history feature a brilliantly curated blend of muzak, hits, lost favorites and charmingly dated advertisements. You can find the entire archive here, but we’ve selected three of the best mixes for you to check out before you dive in. 

February 1992 

This gem from the Valentines season features classic hits from Aaron Neville, Amy Grant, Hi-Five, Patrick Swayze, Wilson Phillips, Bonnie Raitt, and The Police. Ad’s typically only run for seconds, allowing you to get quickly back to what matters, the music. It’s a reminder of a simpler time when K-Mart ruled the sales landscape. They didn’t need to shove advertisements down your throat. K-Mart knows you’re already in the shop, and with this many hits they knew you might keep browsing just to hear the end of your favorite song.  

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30th Anniversary Celebration

The most shocking contribution in the archive is this tape celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary. Taking the company back to where it started, this compilation compiles hits from 1962. Sadly the tape was only played for one day as part of the company’s anniversary celebration. Other than the between song K-Mart ads this mix puts most curated Pandora stations to shame. With hits from the likes of Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party” to forgotten classics like Johnny Tillotson's “Things” this collection of oldies will have you dancing with joy. If K-Mart ran the oldies station in my home town, I’d never turn the dial. 

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December 1990 Holiday Mix

With the holidays around the corner we thought our readers might enjoy K-Mart’s vintage take on the season. Covering a range of Christmas music from standards to muzak renditions of your old favorites this mix would be the perfect background soundtrack to any holiday party. Punctuated with adorably dated advertisements and reminders of how much things have changed in the last 25 years – like the announcement to ”Please refrain from smoking on the sales floor." – this recording is a throwback to another era. 

Music can be like a time machine for your heart. It brings back memories with each passing song. If you like what you’ve heard, you can further explore K-Mart’s in-store music collection here at Archive.Org. Thanks, K-Mart. This treasure trove of musical wonders and goofy ads was an unexpected treat. 

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