The staff of The Verge reveal what music, artists, podcasts and videos they listen to while they work at home, including hip-hop, gaming audio, ebooks, electronica, and musicals.

The staff of The Verge reveal what music, artists, podcasts and videos they listen to while they work at home, including hip-hop, gaming audio, ebooks, electronica, and musicals.

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.If youre used to working in an office full of coworkers, but are now forced to labor from home, you may be feeling that things are a little quiet too quiet. The solution might be to listen to whatever music, talk, or other background audio can keep your spirits up and your attention focused.
You may be listening to the same music or podcasts that you listened to through your headphones in the office. Or you may have decided you need something completely different to get you through your work-at-home days.
We polled the staff of The Verge to find out what what they are listening to during working hours, be it a podcast, an album, a favorite musician, a music genre, whatever. Heres what they told us. Read on and who knows? You might be motivated to try a whole new audio experience.
Write to a mood
When I write, I tend to adopt the mood and rhythm of whatever Im listening to. If I have written a particularly aggro piece, odds are I was listening to Appetite for Destruction (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), Ride the Lightning (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), or Cowboys from Hell (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music). In fact, I tend to rely on metal if I have to bang something out as quickly as possible. Complex pieces, particularly ones with involved edits, usually call for something like Philip Glass or Steve Reich: repetitive, rhythmic, deliberate, satisfying. Elizabeth Lopatto, Deputy editor
Brian Lehrer, Stephen Sondheim, and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Hamilton
Photo: Disney Plus
In the morning, I listen to the Brian Lehrer Show on my local NPR station. Hes my favorite political commentator; he is laid back and non-confrontational, and open to opposing opinions while making his own very clear when necessary. He deals with both local and national issues, but always makes them relevant to his NYC audience. Hes a sane voice in an insane world, so I find him very comforting.
In the afternoon, I might choose from a whole range of musical genres, but my main thing is (yes, I admit it) Broadway musicals (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music). My favorites are Sondheim, Bernstein, and Gilbert and Sullivan (okay, theyre officially operetta, but lets not nitpick), but Ill also go for Irving Berlin, George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess: musical, operetta, or opera?), Kurt Weill, Rogers and Hart, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. If Im working on something that needs a lot of concentration, then I may segue to a classical music station on Spotify, but musicals cheer me up and keep me alert, which is something that is always helpful these days. Barbara Krasnoff, Reviews editor
Stay away from English
More often than not, I cant concentrate on work if Im listening to music thats sung in English. As an English speaker, I think in English, so its like having another person in my head. There are exceptions, though, like if a singer really twists words around in an interesting way. So bands like Dirty Projectors (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), Talk Talk (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), and TV on the Radio (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) have recently been great to listen to.
Otherwise, to stay focused Ive got to listen to either instrumental music, or music sung in a different language. For instrumental, I usually rely heavily on Tortoise (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), Jamie XX (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), and video game soundtracks. Cornelius (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) is great because its mostly instrumental, and what spoken word there is, I cant understand since its Japanese. To that end, Ive also been sticking with Yura Yura Teikokus (Spotify / Apple Music) catalog, as well as mei ehara (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) and Lamp (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music). Those last two are really feel-good artists for me to put on. Arthur Verocais (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) self-titled record also keeps me productive (although its far too fleeting of an album). Cameron Faulkner, Writer
Come to Discworld
A collage of Discworld book covers.
Image: Penguin Random House
When I was young I used to listen to Terry Pratchetts Discworld audiobooks every night as I went to sleep. I had the books on tape along with a bulky silver CD/tape player that was the first adult piece of technology I owned. If I close my eyes I can still remember the click-clack of fitting a tape in place and the feeling of lying in bed while the player whirred away in the darkness of my room like an animal. Every now and again it used to go ker-klunk as the tape turned over in the tray (the height of technological sophistication back then, I assure you).
I dont listen to anything while working now. In fact, I hate noise when writing and wear ear plugs most of the time. But as lockdown began I started buying Discworld audiobooks (Amazon) on my phone once more and now Im addicted. I listen to them when exercising and in the evening as a way to wind down and I listen in bed. Theyre comfort food, I know, and hardly challenging material. But the stories hold up remarkably well and I find Pratchetts cynical but affectionate take on human nature as grounding now as I did back then. People can be bad, says Pratchett, but more often than not theyre scared or confused. Its a good message, though I still miss the whirr of the tape. James Vincent, Senior reporter
Underground hip hop
I havent been able to go home to California since the pandemic started, so Ive got a West Coast playlist for whenever I need some sunshine to get me through the day. Theres nothing like a summer in Los Angeles. For some conscious underground hip hop, Bambu DePistola (Spotify / Apple Music) and Ruby Ibarra (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) the Bay Area rapper working on a COVID vaccine are go-tos. Klassys album Dirty Cortez (Spotify / Amazon Music) is a love letter to the OGs of LAs Echo Park. Another LA staple: Las Cafeteras (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music). The ultimate old-school SoCal summer anthem: The Dove Shacks Summertime in the LBC (Spotify / Apple Music). .Justine Calma, Science reporter
Video Game Soundtracks
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Image: Square Enix Co., LTD
I usually cant write and listen to music in the background. I find I get distracted far too easily, and hearing any lyrics usually just jumbles my thoughts with what Im trying to write. But every once in a while, I use music to get into a zone, and I most often pull that off by listening to *pushes up glasses* video game soundtracks.
Recently, Ive been gravitating toward compilations of music from Final Fantasy VII Remake. I thought Square-Enix did a beautiful job with the soundtrack in that game. Every once in a while, Ill turn on the Clock Town music from The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask, picking whichever of the three variations best suits my mood that day. (Day 1 and Day 2 are pretty calming, while Day 3 has a foreboding sense of urgency that sometimes gives me the kick in the pants I need to finish a big project.) And sometimes I just search for [game name] music + extended on YouTube to get extra-long tracks of music from that game.
I had never consciously thought about why I can sometimes work while listening to game music, but it occurred to me while writing this blurb that most video game music is already designed to be something that loops ambiently in the background of a virtual world while Im focused on another task. Maybe thats why I can sometimes deploy it for tasks in the real world, too. Jay Peters, news writer
Electronica and TV
I so envy people who can listen to podcasts while working; I need all my focus on one or the other, and listening to someone talk is too distracting. Sometimes if I really need to hunker down (like on deadline) Ill put on the noise-canceling headphones and listen to electronica, relying on Spotify for recommendations, but it has to be music with few or no lyrics. Paul Kalkbrenner (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music) has been heavy in the rotation recently. But really the soundtrack I use most often when working remotely is keeping the TV on at a low volume on a news channel. I think its because that level of noise simulates a newsroom environment that lets me get into work brain more easily. Kim Lyons, weekend editor
Recommendations from newsletters
The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway
Photo: Westwood One
I have the kind of brain that cant function without music playing in the background. But if Im working, my brain needs something primarily without lyrics, whether thats classical, jazz, soundscapes, or even the much fawned over (but ultimately pretty boring) lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to. Im terrible at finding new musicians, and I dont want to fully hand over the keys to Spotifys algorithm, so I subscribe to a couple of newsletters for my recommendations.
Two of the best are Flow State and Caesura Letter. Flow State, which is run semi-anonymously by a guy based in New York named Marcus, sends you two hours worth of music every day thats great for working. Caesura Letter is by a friend of mine named Matt Pinto who also records music under the moniker Healthy Lives (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music). He excels at internet crate-digging, whether its trance compilations from the early 90s or an ambient office noises soundboard for those who miss being around their coworkers. (Like me.)
If Im outside riding my bike or back home doing dishes, I throw on a podcast. Lately Ive been enjoying Binge Mode by the Ringer, The Prof G Show with Scott Galloway, and The War on Cars. Andrew J. Hawkins, senior reporter
Choosing Tycho
Most of the day Im not listening to any music or audio, because I frequently have to jump on calls or watch in-progress video that our video team produces before we publish it. But when I need to really focus and get some work done, my music of choice is the ambient, electronic soundscapes of Tycho (Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music), an artist who may be familiar to some long-time Verge readers.
For the past decade its been my go-to music whenever I need to tune out the world and jam out a writing assignment (like I am doing with this right now). Tychos music has just the right amount of soothing sounds and driving beats to keep me focused on what I need to get done and not actually fall asleep.
I most prefer the 2011 album Dive, but oftentimes I just put Spotifys This is Tycho playlist or the Tycho radio station on and let it play. I just have to skip the newer tracks that have incorporated vocals they are fine, but they dont have the productivity juice I crave.
The final piece to this puzzle is a set of comfortable, good sounding, noise canceling headphones that I can use to envelope myself in the soundforms. My current choice are Microsofts Surface Headphones 2. Dan Seifert, Deputy editor
Internet radio
Soma.fm
Ive found chill, ambient music essential to working from home. I want something cool, but my brain is hardwired to key in on lyrics, so vocals are a problem. My go-to for nearly 20 years has been Soma.fm, an internet radio station out of San Francisco that got its start way back in 1999. Soma.fm has a bunch of different stations. Groove Salad is my go-to, and Indie Pop Rocks is was the best way for me to find new music in the early 2000s.
But my favorite is probably Secret Agent, which is like a late 60s James Bond vibe (minus the misogyny) translated through chillwave. Dont worry if none of that makes sense, just know it is very cool and you should check it out.
You can listen in a web browser, but try looking around for a dedicated internet music player if you want more convenient controls I use Triode from iconfactory. The nice thing about using internet radio for radio is that your plug-in-and-focus music is kept siloed from your Spotify algorithm. Dieter Bohn, executive editor
Needing the noise
The View
Photo: Walt Disney Television
As the oldest of five children, growing up it was always noisy. There was always conversation, oftentimes loud sometimes fights even when it was time to study for a test, or focus on schoolwork. Hence, I have developed this need for constant background noise in order to focus. Nothing is as distracting as a quiet office to me, even more disquieting is a quiet home. My solution: morning television. When I work, I have GMA, or The Today Show in the background. I have my coffee with the ladies of The View, and if I have a particularly tough day of work ahead, Wendy Williams becomes my office mate. The combination of heartwarming stories and bickering puts me right in the zone, and its comforting to have chatter in the background and feel like youre with people. The afternoons get a little harder for me right until the problematic Dr. Oz or Ellen come on too bad that the Harry Connick Jr. talk show didnt work out. Esther Cohen, Social media manager
Avoiding earworms and Baby Shark
Podcasts, classical music, video game music, trance, white noise: Ive tried it all, and none of it seems to matter one bit. Personally, I go into a state of hyperfocus during most of my work day, and I dont wind up hearing any of it unless its so interesting or such a devastating earworm that I wind up hyperfocused on that instead. For me, its more about avoiding Baby Shark than proactively finding something to listen to.
On the plus side, it means I dont have to wear headphones at work! Sean Hollister, Senior news editor

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