Is Music Good For Creativity?

Plato once said, “music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

Having spent 15 years in radio, most of them at BBC6Music with a radio on 24/7 while beavering away at work, I honestly believe that music has been a force for good in driving up my creativity and productivity.

But was I wrong? You see the science around all this is very mixed.

Firstly in the music corner…

Research carried out by Goldsmith’s College in London found that when it comes to listening and work performance, more than half (52%) of listeners say they wouldn’t be successful at work if they didn’t listen to music.

“Generally, music can have a strong stimulating effect that makes us alert and focused,” says Daniel Müllensiefen, a professor of music psychology at the London University.

However, psychologists at the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Gävle in Sweden, who conducted an experiment on background music and how it affects performance on creative tasks concluded that (drum-roll), “background music of any kind seemed to be a major distraction for the participants as they tried to complete their creative tasks.”

In particular, study boffin Dr.Neil McLatchie claimed that music with familiar lyrics significantly impaired participants’ creativity and focus, “regardless of whether the music also boosted mood, induced a positive mood, was liked by the participants, or whether participants typically studied in the presence of music.”

So, if the science around all this is startlingly contradictory what do the people in the creative world think of music and their productivity. We put a question to our wonderful creative designers on Twitter.

Ask and you shall receive…

First up Charlotte, who has gone for music with lyrics. We’ll admit this is a guilty pleasure of ours, but we do wonder if a rendition of A Million Dreams while working would truly help. We’d be inclined to agree with the studies claiming lyrics are counterproductive.

Maybe freelance designer Anna has the right idea with her “carpet” music…

Some of you break it down by task, we’re guessing faster beats = faster work pace…

Turns out music isn’t for everyone though, Elaine a designer from Detroit needs the volume dialled right down…

twitter comment

Now, while none of this is pure science, it does show that we all have different ways of working. Music for most creatives it would seem can give them the edge.

Myself? Well, I’m certainly not a lyric man and would sway more towards the tastes of Daniel, a motion graphic designer…

One thing we do know is that right now there has never been a greater time to explore what style of music (if any) works for you while you work.

Spotify has curated playlists that include, “Beats to think to” or “Music for Concentration“.

Being a designer or a creative on days when you’re not doing client meetings or making phone calls, often means you can put the headphones on and crack into your work. It’s a luxury say, bankers or customer services staff don’t have.

As Truffle Talent’s social guy, I’m always listening to music, it helps the flow and can spur my creativity.

I work remotely and need to feel like I’m not completely alone.

So, I’ll leave you with my own headphone moment and hope you’ll indulge me for 5 minutes while you work…

Happy listening.

Written by Adrian Larkin, Truffle Talent’s Social Media Director.