Can Listening to Music Improve Productivity? | Syngency

Can Listening to Music Improve Productivity?

Music is everywhere these days. From personal listening devices to overhead music in just about every business; we can access music at the touch of a fingertip. Many of us use it to set the tone of our environment and our mood, we even have Syngency curated Playlists to boost or chill your mood. It’s easy to say music is a part of everyday life, some would argue essential to everyday life!

At Syngency, we absolutely love music and some of us even hail musical backgrounds. From working for legendary independent record labels, to owning a record label, playing in bands, or being passionate music listeners; it’s safe to say that music is part of our everyday lives. But, can listening to music while working be beneficial or harmful to our productivity?

(photo by Matthew Henry)

Research on the effect of music listening on work performance can vary depending on the individual. According to one research study, those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and had better ideas overall than those who didn’t.

But there are some types of music that worsen productivity.Several studies have shown that popular music interferes with reading comprehension and information processing.


So, what type of music works?
When I work, I find it very hard to concentrate if people are talking…especially, loudly or aggressively. Similarly, listening to music with lyrics is almost as distracting.

It turns out I’m not alone. Music can be considered a form of multitasking, in which the listener is switching back and forth between a task and the music, as opposed to the music simply playing a background role.

Once again, this depends on the type of music and the listener’s habits. Dr. Haake does research on music listening at work, and she identified five factors that could determine whether music is distracting or helpful:

    1. Musical structure. Songs with a more complex musical structure, such as Frank Zappa’s “Muffin Man” can be more distracting to listeners when compared to songs with a simple three-chord structure, such as John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.

    2. Lyrics. Lyrics can distract, as they cause you to focus on the message of the song and interrupt your train of thought.

    3. Listening habits. If someone is used to listening to music while working, it’s often more beneficial than distracting. The opposite is true as well.

    4. Difficulty of tasks. If a task requires more thought and focus, music can make it more difficult to work efficiently.

    5. Control. When music is imposed upon someone, it’s usually more distracting than if the person has a choice in the matter.

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario, there are certain types of music that are better to listen to as you type away on your computer. So if you’re listening to music while working, see if it suits the five criteria above and adjust until you find what works best. Who knows…maybe our Syngency mood playlists can help you decide!