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Work It: The Songs and Playlists Powering Our Workday

By: Kelly Fly

January 19th, 2024
An ai generated image of an abstract digital music console.

There may be no greater motivator — nor a more powerful distraction — than music. That’s why having the right work playlist is critical. From lo-fi hip-hop to dark academia, here’s what each Devise team member pipes into their ears to help them stay on task. You might just discover a new soundtrack for your own workday.

Daven Mathies, Senior Writer

I hate to admit it, but the top songs in my Apple Music Replay were all from lo-fi hip hop playlists. You know, the “chill beats to study to” made famous by the Lofi Girl YouTube channel. There’s nothing wrong with the genre, but as a reflection of personality, it’s a notch above white noise. Unfortunately, as a writer, the last thing I want music to do while I’m working is speak. Literally: songs with lyrics are hugely distracting. It’s difficult to find my own voice when I’m bombarded by someone else’s.

So even if it’s underwhelming that none of my actual favorite artists get represented in my Replay, I can’t quit lo-fi beats. I’ve become wholly dependent on Apple Music’s BEATstrumentals and Lo-Fi Sunday curated playlists (I’ve also included Spotify’s lofi beats, which I presume is similar).

Apple Music


Kelly Fly, Project Manager

Lately, I’ve been listening to whatever Spotify has for me in my Daily Mix. It consists of Regina Spektor, fun., CAKE, Ben Folds, Jenny Lewis, Alanis Morisette, Third Eye Blind, and Bright Eyes. I’m showing my Elder Millennial colors. :-) 

I like it because it’s familiar; the music I grew up listening to. Most of the songs are from bands I saw in concert when I was younger. They’re all nostalgic for me.

It’s good work music because I’ve probably listened to these songs thousands of times, so they can be in the background while I work and I won’t get distracted.


Chris Bawden, Senior Designer

I love listening to chill electronic/instrumental music, nothing with words. It helps get me in the right headspace and stay focused. A few of my favorite artists here are Chris Zabriskie, Goldmund, and Explosions in the Sky. And it’s more than just music for focus. It’s also about the emotion that a song can carry, how the right song can take me back to a time in life when I felt optimistic or happy. And somehow listening to that song brings that feeling right back. There have been times when it’s helped my creativity.

One such song is “Your Hands in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky. I listened to this song a lot in college when walking to class or working in the library. It was such a good song to just chill to. Now it takes me back to that college mindset, full of hope, optimism, and excitement about what the future holds. That’s the headspace I want to be in when I’m creating.

Apple Music

Jessica Miller, Director of Client Services

When I remember to turn on music between meetings, I am most likely listening to something mellow and calming. For me that’s Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, Cat Power, Beach House. The the old soul in me also appreciates some classic Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix. I love good lyrics. I can't get into a song if it lacks strong lyrics, even if the music is great.

Tom Lehmann, Creative Director

I listen to all types of music, but if you were to view my Spotify Top Songs of 2023, you’d likely see Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Ween, Phantogram, and Dan Deacon. My number one played song is “When I Was Done Dying” by Dan Deacon. My number one played album was “American Head” by The Flaming Lips. But my favorite playlist is one I’ve worked on curating for a while called “The New Chill.”

It’s great work music because each song blends together to create a wonderful texture that allows me to concentrate while still inspiring me. It’s also diverse enough to keep my music curiosity piqued.


Kirsten Thomas, Project Manager

I listen to a variety of music and I honestly love listening to podcasts while I work, but when I need to get in the zone, I prefer listening to instrumental music. Specifically, there are a couple of playlists I listen to on Spotify centered around the aesthetic/theme of “dark academia.”

Let me set the scene: imagine I’m wandering the halls of Harvard or Oxford on an Autumn day with a warm beverage in hand; passing by windows with soft light from the gloomy weather peeking through and feeling a slight chill in the air. I sit down in a cozy corner of the University library and I’m wrapped in the inviting scent of leather-bound books. I put on headphones, press play on “The French Library” by Franz Gordon at the top of my playlist, and start reading a classic literature book so that I look like I have important thoughts.

I think the vibe and feeling your music gives you is important for working. Instrumental music is beautiful and calming and the absence of lyrics helps me focus on work a little better! (I also want to plug this incredible Don Draper-inspired playlist compiled by a friend of mine.)


Apple Music

Rob McCready, Account Executive

All listener-supported Radio Paradise, all the time. Specifically “Main Mix.” I do a poor job scouting for new music I like. Radio Paradise does not discriminate between genres and never loops. It will move through “moods” throughout the day and touch rock, classical, electronic, jazz, country (the good kind), ska, funk, you name it. I find myself creating channels in Spotify based on what surfaces. The workday can be a journey, so I like it when my music takes me on one, too.

Radio Paradise

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