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Music in the workplace June 28, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

I love listening to music and own around 500 CDs, which, because of my anal nature, are classified on the shelves according to genre (comedy, jazz, classical, folk, rock, soundtracks, etc.) and alphabetized by artist 🙂 . However, I usually don’t listen to music when I’m working. When I do, it is generally innocuous, soft music that plays in the background.

I use a variety of methods to listen to music in my office (for example, right now). I have a wireless speaker tucked in the corner to listen to music that I am playing on my stereo in the living room, but that usually doesn’t make much sense. After all, I am sitting in my office most of the time and using the computer for music consumes a lot less electricity. I generally only use this option when I am cleaning my apartment because I am in and out of every room so frequently.

The program I generally rely on for music while I work is iTunes. Being frugal, I don’t buy music through iTunes (most of my CDs were purchased from used CD stores or free from Borders listening stations-an employee perk that no longer exists). The iTunes interface itself is free, and I have either downloaded music or copied them from my CDs over the years (my collection of Christmas music is so large that I recently had to move it onto a USB drive to free up several GB). I use iTunes to listen to the various playlists I have set up based on what I am working on. I usually listen to my Relaxation playlist, because I find it difficult to concentrate if I am listening to rocking tunes such as those by Evanescence or BAP. I have also subscribed to several free iTunes podcasts, such as Car Talk Radio, but I don’t listen to them very often because they require concentration.

Streaming radio is also a great way to listen to music. There are a ton of ways to listen to streaming radio. For instance, you can now go to just about any radio station web site and stream their broadcast to your computer. I prefer streaming music through my iGoogle page LabPixies gadget, which allows you to choose five radio stations for its settings. I have two German radio stations, one British radio station, and two local classical music stations stored in my LabPixies gadget (if you haven’t tried Kent State’s station, WKSU, I suggest you give it a listen). I find listening to German radio sometimes helps me get in the “German state of mind.”

I just “stumbled uponPandora Radio, which plays music based on your likes and dislikes. I must have signed up for it a while ago, because I didn’t have to set it up. Right now I am listening to Eva Cassidy Radio, which features soothing songs by female singers with clear voices such as Sarah McLachlan or Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. I like it because I am exposed to singers who I might not necessarily listen to otherwise and am not bound to a radio station’s playlist. It’s also ideal music for working at a high-stress pace.

I’m curious to hear how others work. What programs or methods do you use? I am always looking for new and interesting music sources. Do you listen to music while translating? Do you only listen to music when you are proofreading? Or do you refuse to listen to music because it interrupts your concentration?



1. Ryan Ginstrom - June 29, 2008

I usually have music playing while I work. Basically I like to listen to “mood setters” — it can’t be attention grabbing. So songs that make you listen to the lyrics, talk radio, audio lectures, and so on are out. It also needs to be a song I’m familiar with, so I don’t need to pay attention to it.

2. Corinne McKay - June 29, 2008

Good question! I actually don’t listen to music while I work (although I used to be kind of addicted to Pandora too!) but now that I have a treadmill desk, I take power walk breaks where I turn off the computer monitors and listen to my iPod while I walk fast for about 15 minutes to clear my head. An additional complication is when you share an office with your spouse: overall it’s a good thing but then you have to agree on the choice of music too!

3. Nicolas - June 30, 2008

I definitely listen hours on end of music from radios like “lounge radio”, “sing sing” and “soma radio”. Nonetheless, it has to be commercial free and without much lyrics to stay focused. I also listen to Deezer from time to time and use Simplify Media to listen to my personal itunes library since i don’t work from home.

4. Benny Lewis - June 30, 2008

Very much enjoying your blog!! Keep it up 🙂
Personally I need music to work (probably because of too much TV when I grew up and the background music that every show had…) and these days I rely on streaming music since I’ve never organised my own collection. Sites similar to Pandora that I use (that also give free music based on your tastes) include http://www.musicovery.com and last.fm. I alternate between them depending on what kind of selection I want (musicovery lets you graphically select a mood, whereas you can give lastFM a tag keyword related to a type of song).
It’s important to note that Pandora is NOT available outside the US due to licensing issues (so don’t recommend it to any German friends); as long as I have an Irish IP address I’ll never be able to try it out. With the other options available I won’t need to though 🙂

5. jillsommer - June 30, 2008

That is really interesting about Pandora not being available outside the U.S.! My domain name (jill-sommer.com) is actually listed through a German ISP, but I access the Internet from the States through a local ISP so I never thought about licensing issues and what-not.

As for background noise, I always had the TV going when I lived in Germany so I didn’t feel as “lonely.” I haven’t felt the need to have the TV going in the background since getting a dog. I never really thought about that either… 🙂

6. Benny Lewis - June 30, 2008

Very good point!! I’m a cat person myself, and it was hugely beneficial to be able to ask Pistache (my last cat) how SHE would translate a particular term, so I could think out loud (psychologically beneficial that is 😛 ) but I travel while I translate so the temporary accommodation I have usually doesn’t have any felines to listen to purr… (well, my place in Brazil did, but Brazilian cats are NOT cuddly) I’m going to look into some kind of temporary adoption agency in future cities I go to, maybe I won’t need the music then 😀
The sites I mentioned have good coverage for other countries (last.fm is extremely popular apparently, I’m surprised I only found out about it recently), but when travelling I do put on streamed Irish radio (especially this one in the Irish language) to feel less homesick! I still remember how boring it was before I went freelance and I had to work listening to the computer fan buzz and occasional annoying chatter from co-workers. I don’t know how I got anything done!! I prefer “coworker” chat light this one 😉 Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic!

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