The genre shares commonalities with film and cinematic music, evoking vivid soundscapes and visual imagery in the listeners as well. Because of these qualities, it’s often compared to muzak and wrongfully labeled as merely background music, even though ambient musicians like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin or Vangelis are highly regarded in the musical sphere. Eno himself describes his brand of atmospheric music as a genre that gives listeners the choice of either listening attentively, or ignoring it altogether. Hence, it’s up to the audiences to decide how they want to listen to the music and what they want to get out of it.
With the dawn of synthesizers and the popularization of electronic house and techno music, ambient and atmospheric music has found success in the past decades as well. New genres like ambient industrial, dark ambient, space music or ambient house emerged and gained cult followings among listeners. Popular contemporary artists include The Orb and Boards of Canada, while many of the genre’s pioneers are still active as well.
With its sonic soundscapes and unobtrusive qualities, atmospheric music is popular in work and study environments and as background music for people who need to focus on extra-musical activities. A lot of samplers with atmospheric music have been released for this purpose and playlists containing atmospheric music on YouTube and programs like Spotify are numerous.