The Rules of the Office Stereo

Everyone likes music and everyone is passionate about it to varying degrees.

And within those degrees are a million different tastes of artists, genres, preferred times and mediums of listening to music. In recent years we have seen the rapid rise of the communal office stereo to boost morale, chill people out or increase their working momentum.

But be warned my friends, the communal office stereo or playlist is fraught with politics and needs to be treated as delicately as the relations between North and South Korea. No one wants a civil war in a cubicle.

Don’t go to extremes

I like hip-hop, lots of people don’t. Lots of people like rock, I don’t (generally). If I refrain from adding Waka Flocka Flame to the ‘Groovy Office’ Spotify playlist, then I expect you to hold back on Bring Me The Horizon.

I’ve had to have a few stern words to one particular repeat offender of this in my office. There’s a time and place for everything, and death metal at 9.18am on a Tuesday is not it.


Don’t be a showoff

You like music, cool. You listen to music most people have never heard of, cool. You talk about it all the time and make sure people know how hip and obscure your tastes are, not cool.

If you want to display your knowledge of and start a discourse on the influences behind post-progressive-chillwave-jazz-trap go argue with people in the YouTube comments section. But if you really must be ‘that guy’ learn how to brag about music without being an asshole about it, see here.

Selection is best

The number one rule of playlist curation is never, ever put an entire album or discography on there. Select the best key track(s) for inclusion, that way you won’t piss off your colleagues and will end up with one epic and varied soundtrack to your day.


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Mix it up

And by this I mean keep it fresh. Don’t just have one stock standard playlist everyone keeps adding to that is 17 days long that you never get through. Create an open playlist everyone can contribute to, but clear it out every Monday and start again so you always have some fresh material to sink your teeth/ears into.


DJ for the day

This can be risky if you’ve got some wild cards out there, but it’s fun to take turns in curating the day’s tunes. There must be an honour code here though, where people swear with their right hand to god that they won’t turn into musical Hitler and brainwash you with their personal tastes without a thought to the rest of the office population. Think Switzerland, but less boring and sans yodeling.

Tailor the tunes

Got a deadline day? Ramp up the BPM to get everyone motivated, but not so much that people start freaking out and hyperventilating. Or you could take it the other way and take the temperature down a few degrees and chill everyone out with some softer stuff. The same can be done for creative days, post client dinner/work party mornings (in which case you might need this). Read the room, that’s rule #1.

‘Tis the season

Everyone likes Christmas carols, but not so much in August. This was a serious issue we had to deal with in our office a few months ago and had to put a blanket ban on any Xmas tunes until December 1.

But soon as that first advent calendar door opened and the melted chocolate Santa fell out, we were pumping ‘All I Want For Christmas’ at volume.

It’s fun and it’s silly and gets people in a good mood so I say embrace all festive tunes. The same could go for St Patrick’s Day, Dia De Los Meurtos or what have you.

Headphones built for one

If you’re going to detach yourself from communal listening, or you just need to get inside your zone for some hard finger to keyboard work, throw your headphones on. But please for the love of god, headphones are meant for your own use. You. Your. No one else.

Keep the volume at a level where we’re not all subject to your incessant deep house monotony, or else invest in some good cans that don’t sonically pollute the nearby airspace. They could even be tax deductible.


Image: Bernhard Benhke, Flickr