This post was written on 04 Oct 2011 and is filed under Uncategorized.

Copywriting Music

Copywriters, do you have ‘copywriting music’? Is there a particular song that puts you in the mood? Do you have different soundtracks for each mode – your ‘waste management playlist’ and ‘plus-size brassiere playlist’ for example?

Personally, I require silence to do my best work. Except, that is, for occasional instances when I’m trying to capture one specific feeling and put a single song on a loop. (See our copywriting tips on sensory imagery.)

In general I find lyrics to be really distracting. I can’t deal with the linguistic interference. For visual work such as graphic design, painting or conceptual work when I’m just searching for images, then music can be a nice accompaniment. Otherwise, my iPod is off and the world around me needs to shut its pie hole.

What’s your take on aural stimulation?




  1. Hannah
    October 4, 2011

    It depends on what I’m writing.

    If it’s something serious, I’ll generally work in silence. However, if I’m writing something that requires a little humour, I’ve got a Carnival of the Animals CD that I whack on. I’ve had since I was about 6; helps channel my inner child, you know? :P

    Other than that, I find Rockabilly music quite stimulating!

    • B. Ligerent
      October 4, 2011

      When I do decide to go for music, it’s not even necessarily something I like. It’s just whatever will help me channel the right mood – so I get the channeling the inner child bit.

  2. Gareth Cook
    October 4, 2011

    I always used to think I did my best work in silence, but after having had to don headphones a while back when working in an open plan office I found that I work really well when listening to music. Since going freelance I’ve found that on days when I can’t really get going, or I’m feeling a bit distracted, what my brain needs to kick-start it is some background music.

    I personally find that music with lyrics is not a problem, what helps is how it affects my mood. So I tend to play stuff that I really like rather than trying new stuff out on Spotify for instance. My current top three favourites too raise my game are Mariachi El Bronx (with their self-titled second album), Angles by The Strokes and A Creature I Don’t Know by Laura Marling.

    Thanks for asking!

    • B. Ligerent
      October 4, 2011

      I used to work at an agency with an open-plan office … you know encouraging collaboration, etc. etc. Though I made sure to exile myself to the quietest, most vacant areas possible and, when space allowed, to assign my teams to nearby cubicle “wings” while leaving a vacant one all to myself. Still, I sometimes found headphones necessary. Then I’d usually go for instrumental music. Or I’d find an empty meeting room or even a deserted coffee shop in the neighborhood. I always envied the designers who could spend their days listening to music.

  3. Nick P
    October 4, 2011

    I find it hard to work without music in the background. Anything goes – I tend to listen to whatever takes my fancy on any given day! Today, for example, has been Ed Sheeran, Billy Joel, Dog is Dead and James Morrison….

  4. Andy Nattan
    October 4, 2011

    I *need* noise to work. Whether it’s office chatter, the radio, or a Spotify playlist, I can’t work without it. If it’s silent, I just end up talking to myself. Or singing. Which is just plain horrific.

    Music-wise, I tend to stick to guitar music with a decent bit of bass and a low vocal. Joy Division and Interpol feature quite heavily.

    But I’ve managed to write to Kasabian in a pinch, when the only aural stimulation was someone else’s iPod.

  5. Ben Locker
    October 4, 2011

    Yes, I listen to music all day long. Though, unlike Andy, I couldn’t write to Joy Division. Bach, Beethoven the Buzzcocks and Blondie are all perfect for me…

  6. harpchicwriter
    October 4, 2011

    I tend to have classical music in the background on days that I can’t stand the silence. Otherwise I go for whatever the world around me is doing. (whirring of cool pad fans, cat purring, wind in the trees, construction trucks, go with the flow.)

    I too have a problem with lyrics when writing. As a musician and lyricist, I want to listen to what is being ‘said’. Also, the words tend to get mixed in with my typing by accident

  7. B. Ligerent
    October 4, 2011

    Thanks for all the responses here and on Twitter. I’m starting to see some trends emerge. We’ve got those who NEED noise to to transport them to their happy place, some who NEED silence, and some who lean towards the classical or other non-talky music.

    Funnily enough, I multi-task like a beast, but music – at least with words – really derails me. No matter how much I’d love it to be otherwise.

  8. Jamie Graham
    October 6, 2011

    For me it seems to depend what I’m writing about. For some subjects I prefer silence and for others I like having music in the background.

    My musical tastes for writing include The XX, James, Metric, Johnny Cash and Frightened Rabbit.

    If I’m proofreading something, I always prefer silence.

  9. Bravenewmalden
    October 12, 2011

    Like most writers, if I do listen to music it has to be largely instrumental. Lemon Jelly, the Hidden Orchestra, the Cinematic Orchestra. That sort of thing. There again, I can do mainstream pop or rock if I’m banging out a dull leaflet for a none-too demanding client.

    The main thing for me is that any music has to be my music: I have to be in control. In an agency, the studio can be playing stuff that I like and which in other circumstances I could work to, but the fact that I can’t control it makes it an imposition rather than a pleasant accompaniment.

    I’m not a controlly sort of person otherwise.

    • B. Ligerent
      October 12, 2011

      I think writers in agencies should be given pods that they can cocoon themselves in. Screw “collaborative work environments”. I’m all for zoning. If I want to collaborate, I’ll go to a collaborative space. Otherwise, let me be the cliched solitary writer.

      I wonder how people in more interactive jobs would feel if you just greeted them with deafening silence when they were trying to ask you questions to get their work done.