Music for Your Office Complex (With Playlists)

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Traditionally, an office building contains one company. Different departments might be on different floors, and there may be coffee shops and other small businesses tucked in to serve employees, but the majority of the building is dedicated to one company, and it is filled with large workspaces filled with colleagues.

That model is becoming a rarity. As The Washington Post points out, shared offices and co-working spaces are turning the traditional office concept upside down. These sorts of businesses need small spaces tucked within large metropolitan areas, and they might appreciate renting just part of a floor rather than an entire building.

Enter the office complex concept. These buildings may house one very large company or be devoted to dozens of disparate companies that nestle together in close-set buildings.

How can you make a large office complex seem like a unified whole, even if you are dealing with several different companies? Through the use of the perfect office music playlist.

Where to Play Music in an Office Complex

Whether running a large or small office complex, you will need dedicated entries and exits — spaces employees will encounter as they come and go from work, and spaces customers will spend time in as they wait to interact with staff.

Music is the perfect lobby addition. According to the review site JLL, an office lobby should be an introduction to the brand that lives inside it, helping people to understand the business, the employees, and the company’s products.

Matching music to a brand is just one way to make that messaging crystal clear.

Plenty of other communal spaces could benefit from a touch of music. Hallways and elevators, for example, might shine a little brighter when music plays, especially if your office complex experiences traffic backlogs. Waiting for the elevator might be a little more pleasant, for example, if music is available to smooth the wait.

Bathrooms can also benefit from music. Playing the right tunes can provide a sense of privacy, which could make time spent in a bathroom a bit more comfortable.

What to Avoid With Music

In a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers asked workers in open-office plans to name their top source of dissatisfaction. Many participants cited noise as a major annoyance.

Office noise can emanate from a variety of sources, such as these:

  • Printers and copiers
  • Phone calls
  • Hard shoes on hardwood floors
  • Coffee makers
  • Raucous meetings

For some workers, the music you play over loudspeakers could also be considered noise. While you might choose that music carefully, people who are trying to concentrate on a task or who simply do not enjoy the music you have selected may consider your music to be another distraction that keeps them from work.

Office workers avoid these distractions through headphones, but as Bloomberg points out, those can annoy managers. Employees tapped into their playlists are unavailable for conversation and collaboration with coworkers. They are locked inside their little worlds, listening to sounds no one else can hear. Office managers who want to promote constant communication and cooperation between employees may grow upset if the music they play has the opposite effect.

Music & Productivity

Researchers say that music workers like to hear can make them feel more satisfied with their work, and it could potentially make them more creative and effective. The right songs can also make people feel more likely to enjoy their jobs. 

However, the key is that people must like the music they’re listening to. When forced to endure songs we hate, we become less effective.

Other researchers say that most types of music are helpful, as long as they can keep workers awake. People doing low-complexity tasks appreciate tunes with a fast tempo, while those who have complex jobs tend to need slower and more reassuring tunes. Your results may vary.

Choosing Your Music

Choosing music is personal, and the tunes one person loves can be a source of intense irritation to someone else. While you want the music you select to reflect your brand, you also want your key stakeholders to support your musical choices, so they won't be tempted to overrule your playlist or disable your speakers. A conversation with your stakeholders about song choices might be wise.

Follow these steps to choose the right music that fits your brand:

  • Write down your brand characteristics. Would you define your company as luxurious or value oriented? Are you selling items people need or the things people want? What sorts of words do you use in your marketing materials?
  • Dig deep into your buyer personas. How would you describe the people who use your products? Are they young, or are you serving older people? Do you focus on a specific cultural demographic?
  • Run some searches. Use the words you’ve gathered in searches for music. Phrases like “luxury music” or “songs for teenagers” could help you find some artists and songs that might be right.
  • Ask your staff. What kind of music do your employees think would work best while they’re on the job?
  • Test your theories. Ask your board members, employees, staff, and a few customers what they think about the songs you’ve picked. Be prepared to change course based on that feedback

Let’s give you a few examples to help you understand what kind of music a theoretical company might play:

  • Wine shop selling high-end vintages from France: Your playlist might focus on French songs from the 1950s.
  • Nail salon that typically serves teenagers: Your playlist might include K-pop or dance numbers.
  • Grocery store that sells bargain goods to moms: Your playlist might include hits from the early 2010s.

Every company can come up with something a little different.

Understand the Legal Issues

You may not consider your office a public place known for music, but lawyers disagree. Before playing any song on your business speakers, you must pay attention to U.S. copyright law.

A copyright protects music, and the holder of that copyright is entitled to compensation when the songs are performed in public. Copyright law uses broad terms to define what a public performance means. Typically, it’s music played anywhere that’s open to the public or anywhere a lot of people who aren’t family or friends are gathered. An office fits into this category.

If you play music without permission (a license) from the copyright owner, you could be subject to fines of not less than $750 or more than $30,000, per the court’s discretion. If the courts think you willfully played music without a license, your fees could be as high as $150,000.

Copyrights for songs are typically managed by performing rights organizations (PROs). Most offer bulk licenses for organizations, allowing you to play anything within the group’s catalog. However, for full protection to play what you want, you need a relationship with multiple PROs. That can get expensive and complicated.

Working with a company like Pandora CloudCover can simplify your legal or logistical challenges. Choose from playlists designed for offices, and customize them per your brand.

Music for Offices: What Does the Research Say?

Experts agree that music closely associated with productivity is music that we like. The more the songs make us feel good about ourselves, the better they make us feel about the work we do.

In a study of the musical genres working people appreciated, these were the most popular (and they’re listed in order):

  1. Pop, charts, folk, indie
  2. Rock, blues, grunge, metal
  3. Rap, RnB, soul, funk, jazz
  4. Electronic, dance, house, DnB
  5. Classical, instrumental, lounge

Researchers say songs with a moderate tempo and dynamic variation are likely to increase task quality. Tunes in this class include “She’s Not There” by the Zombies. Songs with a fast tempo and plenty of dynamic variation tend to increase speed. A song like this is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross.


1. Classical

Song: Andante Cantabile, Op. Posth.

Artist(s): Budapest Strings

Song: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria

Artist(s): Johann Sebastian Bach, Glenn Gould

Song: Deux Arabesques L. 66: No. 1 Andante con moto

Artist(s): Claude Debussy, Zoltán Kocsis

Song: Fauré: Pavane in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 50 (Orchestral Version)

Artist(s): Gabriel Fauré, Sir David Willcocks, New Philharmonia Orchestra

Song: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 50 (Orchestral Version)

Artist(s): Ludwig van Beethoven, Igor Levit

Song: Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1

Artist(s): Gabriel Fauré, Yo-Yo Ma

Song: String Quartet No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 12, MWV R 25: II. Canzonetta: Allegretto

Artist(s): Felix Mendelssohn, Kapralova Quartet

Song: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 “Italian”: III. Con moto moderato

Artist(s): Felix Mendelssohn, Leanord Bernstein, New York Philharmonic

Song: Karelia Suite, Op. 11: 3. Alla marcia. Moderato

Artist(s): Jean Sibelius, Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy

Song: Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor, “Für Elise”, WoO 59

Artist(s): Ludwig van Beethoven, Lang Lang

2. Pop/AC

Song: Alaska

Artist(s): Maggie Rogers

Song: Butterflies

Artist(s): Kacey Musgraves

Song: Green & Gold

Artist(s): Lianne La Havas

Song: You Make My Dreams

Artist(s): Daryl Hall & John Oates

Song: Ain’t A Thing (feat. Kaleem Taylor)

Artist(s): Oliver Nelson, Kaleem Taylor

Song: Birds

Artist(s): Coldplay

Song: Budapest

Artist(s): George Ezra

Song: Castle on the Hill

Artist(s): Ed Sheeran

Song: Come Alive (with Years & Years and Jess Glynne)

Artist(s): Years & Years, Jess Glynne

Song: Dancing In the Moonlight – Original Recording

Artist(s): King Harvest

3. Chillwave

Song: Two Thousand and Seventeen

Artist(s): Four Tet

Song: Belly Breathing

Artist(s): Birocratic

Song: Bubbly

Artist(s): Shibo

Song: CandleLit

Artist(s): DJ Harrison

Song: Degrees of Light

Artist(s): Taylor McFerrin

Song: Cirrus

Artist(s): Bonobo

Song: Awake

Artist(s): Tycho

Song: For Marmish

Artist(s): Floating Points

Song: Be Encouraged

Artist(s): Kiefer

Song: Window Drops

Artist(s): ITO

Find the Right Mix for Your Office Complex

Work with professionals with years of experience in the music business. Rely on the expertise of Pandora CloudCover in finding and sharing the right songs for your office complex. Control the sounds from one easy-to-use dashboard, and get started with no long-term contracts or extensive installations.

Contact us today, and we can tell you more.


Washington Office Buildings, Not Just Downtown Anymore. (May 2016). The Washington Post.

How the Office Lobby Speaks Volumes. (August 2017). JLL.

Workplace Satisfaction: The Privacy-Communication Tradeoff in Open-Plan Offices. (December 2013). Journal of Environmental Psychology.

How Music at the Office Affects Your Work Life. (November 2012). Bloomberg.

U.S. Copyright Law. Council on Library and Information Resources.

Chapter 5: Copyright Infringement and Remedies. U.S. Copyright Office.

“Don’t Stop the Music,” Please: The Relationship Between Music Use at Work, Satisfaction, and Performance. (January 2023). Behavioral Sciences.

Working to the Beat: How Music Can Make Us More Productive. (May 2019). Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Sound of Productivity. Total Jobs.

Working to the Beat: How Much Can Make You More Productive. (May 2019). Virginia Commonwealth University.

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