- Pop (30.3%), dance/EDM (17.8%), and rock (16.2%) are the most popular work-from-home music genres.
- 20% of WFH songs were emotionally negative, while only 17% were emotionally positive.
- 69% of WFH songs contained lyrics, while only 23% were instrumental.
- The median tempo of work-from-home music is 118 beats per minute (BPM).
Musically Driven Work
Back in the days of in-office work, employees had little control over the music they listened to. Often, the company chose the music to play as communal background noise for the entire office. Now, with so many employees working from home, how are they exercising their newfound musical freedom?
By using the Spotify API to analyze playlists whose titles contained words like “focus” or “work,” the team at Voices created a complete list of the songs people listen to most while they work from home (WFH). Who are the most popular WFH artists? Which songs are people working to the most often, and what do they have in common? Keep scrolling to uncover the answers.
Remote Workers’ Go-To Music
Working from home is becoming the new normal for many Americans. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of those who can do their jobs remotely choose to work from home some or all of the time. To learn more about the music helping them through the workday, we looked at which artists and songs appear most frequently on Spotify users’ work-from-home playlists.
Although previous research suggests that calming, classical music is better for productivity, the top 25 WFH artists on our list often produce modern and upbeat tunes.
Genre-defying singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is currently the No. 1 artist on people’s WFH playlists, revealing that the 11-time Grammy award winner is still as popular as ever. Likely, the recent rerelease of her platinum albums “Fearless” and “Red” – both Taylor’s Versions – helped boost her ranking. Popstar Harry Styles of One Direction fame ranks second, possibly due to his newest hit solo album, “Harry’s House,” which was released earlier this year.
Making a comeback to the music scene after taking time off for family life, new dad Ed Sheeran is the third most popular artist on WFH playlists. Sheeran dropped his fourth album “= (Equals)” in 2021. It includes a mix of love ballads about his wife and catchy pop singles like “Bad Habits” and “Shivers.”
In the next part of our study, we dug even deeper and found the most popular songs among WFH listeners.
Though an American, T-Swift, came in as the top artist on WFH playlists, the Brits dominate the most frequently played WFH songs. Harry Styles took three of the top five spots and had a total of five songs in the top 25 (the most of any artist). Popular tunes from fellow English artists, Glass Animals and The Beatles, ranked in third and fifth place. Despite lyrics having the potential to draw focus and attention away from the task at hand, instrumental music didn’t appear on this list. Spotify users clearly have a strong preference for listening to lyric-filled pop music while working remotely.
Most Productive Genres
Since studies suggest that specific genres are better than others for productivity and focus, we wanted to see if people’s work playlists reflect that. So, which genres are currently the most popular for people’s (supposedly) most productive hours?
It turns out that the genres which typically prepare people for physical exertion, like upbeat pop and dance music, are the same ones that people use to prepare themselves for mental efforts. Pop songs comprised 30.3% of WFH songs – more than any other genre. Scientific studies suggest that high-intensity songs can improve athletic performance and decrease perceived effort, especially during endurance training. Perhaps listeners experience similar benefits for their mental tasks as well.
Popular job search company Indeed suggests that calming music, often without vocals, is best for productivity. They list music with ambient or nature sounds as beneficial for focus and concentration. But low-energy, lyric-free music wasn’t the top choice among remote workers: Classical music made up less than 1% of the WFH playlists we analyzed, and easy-listening tracks accounted for only 1.8%. It sounds like most people prefer music that creates an energizing atmosphere for getting work done at home.
What Is The Work-From-Home Sound?
Spotify’s API also enabled a technical analysis of the instrumentalness, valence, and energy of the top WFH songs. Here’s a technical look at how workers’ music sounds.
You may be surprised that only 23% of the WFH songs we studied were instrumental, considering the tendency of song lyrics to be a distraction from work. But lyrics may be less of an issue for remote workers, who have proven themselves more productive than their in-office counterparts. They could be less concerned with choosing music that maximizes productivity and more interested in playing the music they enjoy.
We also found that 24% of WFH songs were high-energy while 19% were low-energy, corroborating our earlier findings of workers preferring upbeat music. However, most songs were more likely to be emotionally negative. Perhaps this reflects the state of the world and how people feel, as opposed to what boosts productivity. Everything from mental health to sleep and physical health has been declining in the U.S., which will likely impact the music we enjoy.
What Makes a Work-From-Home Song?
Spotify’s API helped us get even more specific than genre and valence. This last part of our study sorts WFH music by specific characteristics like tempo, duration, and even predominant musical key.
We determined the average WFH song is currently 3 minutes and 15 seconds long. This length reflects a broader trend within music: With each year, the most popular songs have become shorter and shorter. Once, they were close to four minutes long and have since been cropped to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. As our study shows, the length of the average WFH song is even briefer than that. Could this have something to do with the reduced attention span of Americans?
The tempo of the most popular WFH songs averaged 118 beats per minute (BPM). For perspective, the average human heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 BPM, so 118 BPM makes for an upbeat, pulse-quickening song. Our finding also reflects the recent trend of pop songs having higher BPMs than before. Regarding musical keys, the most popular WFH songs were in C, followed by G.
Finding the Perfect Work-From-Home Music
Remote workers have something to teach us as it’s becoming widely understood that they’re often more productive than in-office workers. Our research shows that remote workers aren’t necessarily listening to what most people think of as “work music.” Instead of calm instrumentals or easy listening tracks, they’re turning to pop, dance, and rock and choosing high-intensity, fast tracks over classical music. Overall, it appears that remote workers aren’t creating their work playlists to enhance productivity and focus but instead to reflect their musical tastes and preferences.
For this study, we utilized the Spotify API to identify songs included on numerous work-from-home playlists. We compiled a total of 98 playlists with titles that contained any of the following terms: “work,” “productivity,” and “focus.” We excluded playlists within this list that included the term “workout.” In total, these playlists contained 25,854 songs by 6,552 different artists. Additionally, we gathered the artists’ associated genres and each song’s valence, instrumentalness, energy, tempo, and key.
No statistical testing was performed on this data, so the above claims are based on means alone. As such, this content is exploratory and presented for informational purposes only.
Voices is the world’s No. 1 voice marketplace, with over 2 million members, providing brands access to hire voice talent in 100+ languages across 160 countries to bring their creative projects to life.
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