I sing the body electric

Do you hear the developers sing? Study finds: yes, all the time

Jane Elizabeth
© Shutterstock / Spectral-Design

Is listening to Taylor Swift your guilty little secret while coding? Well, you’re not alone. We’ve got the scoop on why developers like to listen to music while they code… as well as some information on some unforgivable monsters.

It’s the rare person indeed who doesn’t use music to get through the day. Whether it’s a long commute via public transportation or car, or an unending list of tasks at work, we all need a little pick me up to motivate and help us through the day. Developers are no different.

What’s more, in the era of open offices, having headphones on makes it easier for developers to keep on task and coding coherently. Distractions are dime a dozen in an office without walls or barriers; music keeps you on task despite all the interruptions. (Plus, no one needs to hear Janice from Accounting’s latest story for the fifth time.)

Qualtrics recently surveyed 400 professional software engineers about their music listening habits. Some results were unsurprising: 96% of developers listen to music at least some of the time while they code. Probably because of all that ambient office noise!

Casey Kasem’s Top Pop

So, who are y’all listening to? According to Qualtrics, it’s a lot of Pop 40. When developers were asked for their favorite artists, the answers were surprisingly varied. But there were some clear winners.

The top faves:

  • U2
  • Taylor Swift
  • The Beatles
  • Maroon 5
  • Linkin Park
  • Katy Perry

Pop was by far the most popular genre to listen to for developers with 28% of the pie. The next genre was electronic, at 12%. 11% of us are listening to classical music and only 2% said they liked reggae. Pop’s dominance is undeniable: I guess even the most hardened developer just can’t help but sing along to Tay Tay.

SEE MORE: Trending on the charts: Swift hits Top 10 for popular programming languages

Qualtrics also surveyed how people were listening to music. We’re all streaming our music these days. Among developers, Pandora was the most popular choice for streaming music with 29%, followed closely by YouTube (23%) and Spotify (19%). But how are the remaining 29% of developers listening to music? I don’t know, maybe vinyl or something, I’m not hip.

Older developers had significantly different results than younger ones. Software engineers over the age of 35 were 3x more likely to listen to the radio while coding than younger engineers. They were also less likely to listen to music very often or always while coding.

Of course, the survey had one unexpected result: 80% of software engineers listen to music through headphones. (People tend to prefer Bose headphones, followed by Sony and Beats.)

But that statistic begs the question: who are these monsters listening to music without headphones?! These 20% of developers had better be in their own offices. I’m not saying people who listen to music without headphones in shared offices are history’s greatest monsters. I’m just saying they’re in the running.

So, next time you’ve got some tricky code to write, cue up some Bono or Taylor Swift and get to work! But please, don’t forget your headphones. Your officemates will thank you.

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments