When we think of music at the office, we often think of headphones. Personal music players are absolutely everywhere, including in the phones we carry and the computers we work on. All we need to do is plug in a pair of headphones, and we're ready to face the workday.

But headphones come with major drawbacks. Workers encased in their own bubbles of sound aren't open to collaboration with their colleagues, and the music they listen to could damage hearing.

The World Health Organization is so worried about damage from personal players that they're recommending only an hour of personal music time for young people. Adults who stay plugged in all day long could be doing intense damage, and they may not be aware of it.

To foster collaboration, and to protect the health of workers, some leaders are turning to office music, played over loudspeakers for all to hear. Could this be right for your office, and what should you know before you get started? We’ll lay it all out here.

Why Play Music at Work?

Music can make a long workday go by a little faster, and for some workers, tunes are more than just pleasant. The music they listen to helps them to overcome a chemical deficiency.

A researcher quoted by CNN suggests that people with the adult form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle to focus on workplace tasks due to a deficiency of the brain chemical dopamine. Hearing music prompts the brain to make more dopamine, essentially correcting this deficiency. For someone who cannot focus during the day, music could mean the difference between getting something done or pushing the deadline out by yet another day.

In addition, research suggests that an office playlist that includes tunes that are both familiar and happy can increase cooperation between employees.

Read more on music psychology

In this study, explained in detail in an article published by Fast Company, researchers created a playlist that included familiar songs such as "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison and "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles. When those songs were playing, employees were better able to make group decisions compared to moments when the music wasn't playing.

Music can also help you define your company's culture. If you'd like your employees to think of your work as somber and serious, music with that description could set the tone for new employees and your occasional visitors. If, on the other hand, your work should be considered hip and trendy, a playlist dominated by hip hop or current hits could help you get that message across.

Lyrics or No Lyrics?

Choosing the right songs for the office requires quite a bit of art, and the music that is right for one office may be completely wrong for another. That's why there is no set "office music playlist" that's perfect for every office. You'll need to think about your office dynamics carefully as you make your selections.

One of the first questions to consider involves lyrics. If your staff is required to perform very detail-oriented work, it's possible that lyrics could hinder that work.

In a study published by IOS Press, researchers examined performance in 102 participants, and they found that music with lyrics had a significant impact on concentration and attention. The workers spent time decoding the lyrics rather than paying attention to their work, and that had a drag on their performance.

Music with lyrics could also become an issue for human resources, says Undercover Recruiter. Some genres, including hip hop, have lyrics that some might consider offensive or risky, and that means picking a service that screens and filters the lyrics (like Cloud Cover Music) to make sure they're safe for all listeners.

But music that comes with no lyrics could be considered too boring or too vanilla to some listeners, and they might be tempted to sneak in their own headphones in order to listen to music they actually enjoy.

Music with lyrics could also become an issue for human resources, says Undercover Recruiter.

Fast or Slow?

Music also comes in a variety of tempos, and you'll need to decide what's right for your office. If you'd like your employees to work a little quicker, fast music might help.

In a study published by Ohio State University, researchers found that faster music made employees walk a little quicker than music that was slower. Results like this seem to suggest that workers who do manual work might appreciate a quicker playlist, so they can get more done in less time.

But music like this can come across as stressful to others. To them, a slower pace of music might seem soothing, so they can deal with the difficulties of work without feeling pressed to do even more.

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Making the Right Choice

Research from the journal Musicae Scientiae suggests that employees listen to music for about a third of their workweeks, and most listen to a wide variety of music. Chances are, your employees could tell you about their favorite work music. They might even be willing to share playlists with you.

Open up a conversation with your staff about:

  • Artists
  • Songs
  • Volume
  • Location of speakers
  • Times the music would play

Dig through the suggestions you've been given, and think about how that music might work when it's playing throughout the office. When you've settled on a theme, share that with your employees.

Let them be part of the decisions you make and help them to feel empowered about the options you're considering. If you are using a music service, like Cloud Cover Music, you can collaborate with musicologists and staff members to get the initial mix you are looking for. After you launch your office play program, keep those lines of communication open, so they can give you feedback and you can adjust.

You might be surprised to find that your workers love your music program. They may even ask for notes about your playlist, so they can play the same tunes at home or in the car.


1. Classical: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3inr0ttOv0aPSmXaZ7yFIg?si=ORb68xx0S_iC6s-QTG0m6A

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. 13, "Pathétique": II. Adagio cantabile

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, Leonard Bernstein

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. Slow: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6zk9wg5ENX6a7KOMB2kdpO?si=WvVDXLFwTUCcKCpfwZBRrw

Song: Abeja

Artist(s): Mndsgn, Sofie


Artist(s): KAYTRANADA, Karriem Riggins, River Tiber

Song: Electric Chords

Artist(s): Dibia$E

Song: Far Away

Artist(s): Tomppabeats

Song: Gobstopper

Artist(s): J Dilla

Song: Happysad Sunday

Artist(s): Kiefer

Song: In the Chambers of Her Goodness

Artist(s): Georgia Anne Muldrow

Song: Jovial

Artist(s): Limes

Song: NorthGate

Artist(s): ohbliv

Song: '90

Artist(s): soho

3. Upbeat: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3GpJrOexloknt7O5ZW5OMp?si=LyR1KrEuRfeUWNHkNU8M7w

Song: 7th Sevens

Artist(s): Bonobo

Song: Alma

Artist(s): il:lo

Song: Arey

Artist(s): ITO

Song: Bloom

Artist(s): ODESZA

Song: Canyon Walls

Artist(s): Koresma

Song: Daffodil Pickles

Artist(s): Emancipator

Song: Dawn

Artist(s): ITO

Song: Dilla's Eclair

Artist(s): DJ Harrison

Song: Emei

Artist(s): il:lo

Song: Frozen

Artist(s): HAELIUM

How to Ensure Your Office Is Playing Music Legally

It's tempting to build a playlist, plug in speakers, and fill the office with sound. Unfortunately, this could be illegal.

Breaking the law could come with fines levied per song. Those fees could add up, and since they're determined in lawsuits, you could have court expenses too.

Very small offices playing radio stations through just one or two speakers could be eligible for an exemption. But playing the radio isn't always ideal, especially if the channel you choose is loaded with drive-time chatter and advertisements.

You must have a legal relationship with performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP. They hold two types of copyright: one that covers the musicians and one that covers the recording. Many popular songs are covered by different PROs, so full coverage means making many connections and checking the legal issues often.

Working with a streaming service helps you cut through red tape and play music legally. Companies like Cloud Cover Music make PRO connections, build playlists, and ensure that everything you play is legally protected. Fees are reasonable, and setup is quick and easy.

If you want to play professional-grade music in your office, working with a streaming service is the best solution out there.

Cloud Cover Music negotiates licenses with all of the smaller organizations, so you don't have to worry about overlapping coverage. We negotiate fees, so you spend less too. And we offer a wide variety of different types of music, so we're certain to have something that will keep your workers happy.

Contact Us for More Information

We'd love to connect with you and show you how it works. Contact us and let's get started.

Working with a group like Cloud Cover Music is different. We negotiate licenses with all of the smaller organizations, so you don't have to worry about overlapping coverage.

We negotiate fees, so you spend less too. And we offer a wide variety of different types of music, so we're certain to have something that will keep your workers happy.

Contact Us for More Information

We'd love to connect with you and show you how it works. Contact us and let's get started.