Several years ago, Muzak (the corporation, not the irritating genre) had a saying something to the effect of “People are more productive when listening to boring music”. And with that, they sold hundreds of thousands of installations of Muzak (the irritating genre).
Through the 1980s and early 1990s, I worked in several offices that had piped-in music — Muzak, adult-contemporary radio, and god-awful country music. It was alternating annoying and soothing, but mostly it was irrelevant. The problem was that nobody could agree on what it should be — what style, what volume, or even if it should exist at all. It seemed like the only one that was happy was the office manager who picked the music.
The revolution toward personalized playlists started with Walkmans and portable CD players, but it really took off with iPods. Now we can add streaming Internet radio, satellite radio, and CD ripping to PCs to the mix. It seems that everybody is plugged in. And that’s fine with me.
I’m constantly amazed at the variety of tastes that exists in the officeplace. When the listener is shielded knowing that nobody else can tap into his style (by virtue of ear buds, tucked away into his aural cavities), all inhibitions are lost.
There are times that I have “peaked” into my co-workers’ playlists. The only thing I can be sure of is that I can never predict what other people are listening to. My own playlist (mostly smooth jazz with some light classical mixed into it) is no match for the mixture of heavy metal, country, blues, and American Idol mush that I know everybody else is listening to.
And that’s fine with me. Individualism is good. It empowers the office worker, giving him a sense of importance. His it department can tell him what version of Microsoft Office he has to deal with. His boss can tell him what font he has to use in PowerPoint presentations. His finance department can tell him what receipts he has to turn in after a business trip. His hr department can tell him what documentation he has to gather before he can fire his slackered subordinate.
But, by golly, nobody can tell him he can’t listen to Def Leppard while he works on his client’s latest proposal.
What harm can possibly come from that?