An Open Letter To IT Executives: Don’t Block The Rock

Academic studies are showing that music is a great way to keep employees focused and productive in the face of rapidly changing workplace environments.  In today’s workplace, with open office plans, telecommuting, and other distractions abounding, it’s a good thing that help is already widely available. But at the same time this information is coming to light, nearly half of IT administrators are blocking, throttling or banning access to legitimate music streaming services like Spotify, Vevo and Pandora on employee computers and mobile devices. It doesn’t add up, and we believe it’s time for business leaders to rethink their current IT policies: don’t block the rock.    

The research supporting music in the workplace is strong. For example, a study released by the Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research that was cited in the New York Times (p. 173) found that “positive affect and quality-of-work were lowest with no music, while time-on-task was longest when music was removed” for 56 software developers. It goes on to say: “When music evokes a pleasant mood and an increased arousal state, participants perform better on nonmusical tasks. Thus, there is support for an increase in creative problem solving and task performance by workers…”

Similarly, a study by VisionCritical among 1,000 U.K. businesses found that in certain industries, music in the workplace helped boost sales: “Eighty-one percent of retailers believed music boosted staff morale, while 84 percent of owners in the hospitality business said the same. Without music, 25 percent of retailers and 33 percent of hospitality companies would actually lose business, according to these respondents.” See here and here.

We know there are legitimate concerns about the legality of some sources of digital music, but the music business has transformed itself over the past decade.  Ten years ago, there were few authorized digital music services, and the overwhelming majority of online music originated from illegal services often rife with spyware or viruses.  Today, the legitimate music marketplace is teeming with digital services that are safe, secure and hassle-free.  

To make it easy for people to determine what sites were legal, NARM and the RIAA joined together last year to launch this website, an authoritative online guide to the leading music services in the United States. Here you can learn that there are now more than 60 legitimate U.S. music services (and 500+ worldwide) offering the gamut in terms of different models – free/ad-supported subscriptions like Spotify, on-demand subscriptions like Rhapsody, download-to-own like iTunes, Internet radio like iHeartRadio and Pandora, cable and satellite radio like SiriusXM. 

Popular and authorized music services today aren’t clogging network resources either.  The bandwidth consumed by an individual to stream music from a service such as Spotify (on average <32MB/hour downstream), or Pandora (approximately 28MB/hour downstream) is a fraction of that consumed by other business uses such as a standard video Skype session (>100MB/hour downstream and >100MB/hour upstream).

Of course, there are still illegal sites out there, and that’s why we wholeheartedly encourage administrators to remain vigilant about bandwidth hogging file-sharing sites rife with malware and configured with settings that can expose a company’s top secrets to the world.

But the technological landscape keeps changing, and we encourage business IT leaders to review applicable policies and bring them in line with the times: music can be a powerful, positive tool in the workplace. With resources like this site to guide you, it’s easy to offer lots of options to your team for places to go. It’s time to unblock the rock and welcome music back to the office.

By Jim Donio, President, NARM and Cary Sherman, Chairman & CEO, RIAA

August 12, 2013