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Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 at 9:20 am

Music to Work By

By Bryan Eisenberg
January 7th, 2009

If you were alone in the office, had a grueling task ahead of you to finish up your work, you’d start your iPod and crank it up…

My colleagues at FutureNow have an eclectic love for music and are always on the hunt for next best thing to listen to.

What would you be listening to? What would help you plow through your work?

Please share an unusual favorite song, artist, album or even a playlist. Also please indicate what you do to pay the bills.

Oh, and by the way, since several of us received an iPod Touch this holiday season. That is the item that topped our list of gifts for web geeks. I even got these cool Etre Touchy gloves that will keep my hands warm this winter, but let my fingers interact with my touchscreen. While we are at it, what is your favorite app for your iPod Touch (it seems ours is Wurdle)?

*This post was inspired by my friend Daniel Waisberg on the Web Analytics Discussion group and Apple’s new DRM free music.

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Comments (48)

  1. I’m working right now to Dire Straits. But anything by Jim Steinman, Bruce Springsteen, or Van Morrison works depending on the mood needed.

  2. I’ve always got music going, but it depends on what I’m trying to do.

    If it is highly creative task or brainstorming then I usually crank The Crystal Method or Colma by Buckethead.

    When I just need to write, I go for something more mellow like David McMillin, Allison Crowe or Black Morgan.

    Then when it comes to day to day cruising on through I usually put my iTunes on shuffle for the most variety. Prince of course comes up a lot since I have more of his music then anything in my collection.

    Can’t wait to see what others say.

  3. Pandora-Massive Attack station, smooth low dub, acid jazz, trip hop…

  4. I never has music playing while I work – as I’m a musician I automatically have my own musical soundtrack while I record.

    Between recordings though, either relaxing or during administrative work I listen to inspiring podcasts – just like C.C. Chapman’s Managing The Gray!

  5. Like, C.C. it depends on what im trying to accomplish. I’m a creative director. If I am cranking for a presentation, I almost always jump to Jurassic 5′s Quality Control album.

    If I am in concepting mode I tend to listen to Zeppelin alot.

    If I am trying to write, I like Ryan Adams.

  6. Like CC I tend to put my music on shuffle during the day. Black Lab when I’m working through a tough piece of code, Matthew Ebel when I need a lift, but ultimately shuffle.

    As far as apps I love Evernote and when I need something fun, Tetris.

  7. Can’t do real work with music on. Never could… even as a student!

  8. Right now: The red album by Weezer.

    Or some Bad Religion is always good.

  9. Kings of Leon right now, earlier today Brahms.. before that Sufjen Stevens. depends on how tough I’m finding it to be awake/concentrate.

  10. I listen to Prog Rock unless my wife is in the office – lately using and spotify

  11. Like many others, it depends on what I am doing. But the genres are usually; ska, blues, heavy metal, with sprinklings of classical and celtic music.

  12. Concur with Marc Meyer: Massive Attack, Hooverphonic, Portishead, early Eno, etc. But mix in Soundtracks from composers such as Thomas Newman & Alexandre Desplat.

  13. My music selection depends on the task but I use Pandora and Last.Fm on my iPhone and computers.

    When designing I enjoying listening to punk/alt rock and hip hop.

    Then when coding I listen to faster electronic.

    And when doing paperwork or consulting related task it is down tempo electronic and traditional jazz.

    Music defines my motivation for the day!

  14. The advantage of working at home is I can listen to what I like as loud as I like (I can even sing along!). I usually listen to folk and Celtic music, with Great Big Sea topping the list. A good sea shanty gets the blood pumping!

  15. It has to be classical because I start writing down the words in emails or blog posts if I listen to songs!

    I don’t want to be asking my boss “should I stay or should I go?” by accident!

    Or telling all our adCenter customers that they’re “so vain the probably think this song…” etc etc.

    So Mozart, Bach, John Rutter or Vaughn Williams.

    Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams is ACE!

  16. If I’m stressing, I prefer something with some bounce. Ska always makes me happy.

    I’m generally a set it and forget it iPod sort of person too, but depending on the mood, I tend to gravitate to stuff with more of an edge, like Ministry.

  17. I gotta say, I’ve discovered Mogwai to be excellent music to work with. Doesn’t distract you, but when you have a minute to listen, it’s still incredible.

  18. 90% of the time it’s Channels: Beatles, Colin Hay, Billy Joel, Morrisey and about 10 others.

    But… at least once a week I listen to my favorite Youtube ukulele girl Julia Nunes :)

    Also, if you like ukulele. Check out Dent May.

  19. Right now, the new Guns N’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy. It’s wicked:)

  20. It’s either Pandora (my own station) or my iPod on shuffle.

    Pandora is great because it not only introduces me to new awesome music it knows I’ll like, but since it’s often playing music that’s new to me, I’m better able to focus (instead of singing along with my favorite songs…)

  21. Music – Paramore, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Big Band (Frank Sinatra, et al), Viktoria Mullova (classical)

    Apps – My husband is a budding iPhone/iPod Touch app developer. My favorite app of his is RealPass.

    Other developers – WeightBot – a weight tracker is the best looking app I’ve seen. And I like to play games like Cubes, 3Towers and Fast and Furious Pink Slip.

  22. I’ve got a massive shuffle going on right now, but for creative purposes, I have a playlist that is made up of Prince, Jason Mraz, Otis Lee, Jack Johnson, Lily Allen, Maroon 5, Fall Out Boy and Counting Crows.

  23. I work in the e-services department of my organization. I listen to different things every day. I will shuffle on the iPod when I’m not really going to pay attention, I’ll start Genius if something catches my fancy. I also listen to Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, CC Chapman’s Managing the Gray, Digital Photography Life, etc. It all depends on the day and what I’m working on.

  24. Thanks for expanding the discussion Bryan.

    This is something really helpful, music sometimes can fill you with the energy necessary for a good piece of work!

    I still did not find something more inspiring than Miles Davis for working (especially ‘Kind of Blue’). While it is energetic, it is calming and helps you focus on what you are doing…

  25. I pretty much fine tune my Classical music list on while working late hours (In-house SEO).

    Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of international music.
    My two favorite “discoveries” are Solas (check out Solas – It’s Still Raining, fun stuff) and Toumani Diabate (check out Toumani Diabate – Toumani)

    For some reason I can’t work when I listen to mainstream music. It’s strange.

  26. What a great way to spur some discussion Bryan. Lately I’ve been listening to:

    Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
    Fleet Foxes – Self Titled
    Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
    Vampire Weekend – Self Titled


    Pepe Romero – Pepe Romero Guitar
    Ivan Moravec – Chopin: Complete Nocturnes
    Tallis Scholars – Lamenta

    Super excited to now be able to purchase music from iTunes on my iPhone over 3G!

    I am senior web designer for LaCrosse Footwear. I am also reading as many books as I can from’s recommended reading list (Bryan you need to be on that list).

  27. Metal: Necrophagist, Obituary, Helloween, etc.

  28. I work for a chamber of commerce and campaign in my spare time – I always have on – it just goes with my mood, finds other music I may not have heard and sometimes just throws a great/fantastic old track at me

  29. I work to the WOXY Vintage station on iTunes. Lots of good 80s, and you never know who it will be. It can go from B52s to Cure to Tom Jones to Lone Star. Keeps me guessing, and working!

  30. When at work, shuffle is a girl’s best friend. That said, I find myself listening to Brian Eno a lot when I’m hard at work on something — the trancey music helps me focus on the task at hand. When I need to bring up my energy, I crank the Marnie Stern or Cold War Kids.

    When I’m writing, I have playlists for different projects.

  31. These days listening to Zero 7, Mercury Rev and Catherine Wheel… but on any day it could be anything from Decemberists, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses to Springsteen or Metallica. Whatever suits the mood I’m in…

  32. Mostly prog, but lately can’t seem to get enough of Furr, by Blitzen Trapper. Also digging the new It Bites album, The Tall Ships (yeah, it’s proggish, but so what).

  33. I love this thread! I’m a huge music aficionado, with close to 8500 songs in my iTunes library. I can’t stand Blues, Bluegrass, Acid Jazz or Zydeco.

    That being said, I’ve been listening to a lot of New Wave 80s (P-Furs, Tears, Blancmange…) and what I like to call Surf Punk: Cartel, Boys Like Girls, Click Five…)

    With Pandora’s iPhone app, I put all of these artists in a playlist and let it ride.

  34. I’m a software developer, and I listen to St. Germain. Someone lent me the CD years ago, and I hated it, but I kept the music. Now, if I have a deadline, I almost can’t do it without listening to this. The songs are: Rose Rouge, Montego Bay Spleen, So Flute, Land Of…, Latin Note, and Sure Thing.

    I also listen to Chambao, Cafe Del Mar, Caia, and Transoceanic. Or if that playlist is old, I listen to the mp3s that came with Civilization IV.

    Music with lyrics is bad for me because I have to concentrate on creating new things, and complex systems.

  35. Smooth electronica like Massive Attack, Morcheeba and Cafe Del Mar work best in my opinion. Anything with too insightful lyrics and you’re more inclined to listen to them than focus on the task at hand, lol

  36. I do a lot of writing (and thinking before writing). For me that means tunes on the mellower side like Hem (Rabbit Songs, Eveningland). I’ve also recently been savoring an album of acoustic guitar genius called “Friday Night in San Francisco” by John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Paco DeLucia.

  37. Power Metal does it for me. Lots of Dragonforce. It helps me keep the momentum going.

  38. Clay Cotton’s rockin piano is happiest, the most upbeat, fun music we’ve ever used – We use it every single day. Hear sample tunes at – Truly outstanding !

  39. got and love the touch love the all the apps so far. jamming Rush when I want to concentrate on the music and the task is menial. if the task takes more brain, jamming something celtic, of something to the likes of enigma or even enya

  40. So if I’m really trying to think; come up with something outside the box, I need white noise, like the AC running or the sounds of traffic through the nearest window and a keyboard to jot down my thoughts.

    If it’s a remedial or tedious, time-consuming task, I find Slayer’s Decade of Aggression will get me through about 35 minutes of the task in the blink of an eye.

    After that it’s shuffle with a heavy dose of Misfits, Ramones, Exploited and “I-heard-it-once-in-a-soundtrack-and-never-again” downloads from iTunes, like Restless Eric’s Go The Whole Wide World and stuff like that. 2008 was the year of commercial downloads. I would hear a song I’d never heard before in a commercial and go download it. Thanks to Chocolate for introducing me to Wild Cherry.

    No shuffle is complete without Tina Turner and some Neil Diamond though. I find Tina keeps me in tune with my feminine audience while Neil is in place to lighten my mood after a little too much speed metal.

    And finally, AC/DC and iTunes be damned for not letting me get their music there!

  41. Viva la Vida by Cold Play, the best to zone in on tough work stuff.

  42. • Lisa Miskovsky – Still Alive

    • Web Developer

  43. Smooth jazz on streaming WinAmp — every day, all day.

  44. It’s all in the rhythm of the music. I found that the unexpected indie hit Fleet Foxes was a joy to write to!

  45. Try writing to Pseudosix or Sea Wolf and the likes. Works really well. One needs music that has a ‘flow’ to it.

  46. I wish I was one to listen to music and work at the same time. Unfortunately it drives my productivity to nearly nothing. No ipod for me, sorry apple.

  47. Frankly, the record industry is in steep decline because they’re stupid and don’t figure out how to keep up with technological advances nor how to serve niche markets. But good luck–maybe you’ll find yourself properly placed to exploit the future we can’t predict.

  48. I work from home and therefore spend most of my working hours isolated.

    That means no socializing, no chitchating with coworkers and stuff like that.

    Music is therefore my only companion. In fact, I cannot imagine working without listening to music anymore.

    My music suggestion to you is “Beats Antique”..Enjoy : )

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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