Music for programming

12th April 2009

Programming requires a lot of concentration. When I program, I need a steady supply of background music to stop me from getting distracted and to help me focus.

I am quite picky about the music I listen to:

  • It needs to be totally non-distracting. Meaning very few words, if any at all.
  • My concentration needs to last for as long as possible, so uninterrupted music, and no DJ or adverts please.
  • I get bored of music really quickly so a constant supply of new music is also required.

This requirement has been a problem for me for several years. Back in the 90's, I used to record the Radio 1 Essential Mix onto cassettes. I figured it was ok to tape Radio shows which were being broadcast for free, and anyway, the dreadful music played during the day was enough to force anyone to come up with a way of bringing the excellent late-night speciality shows to normal office hours.

Unfortunately, recording was difficult as it was necessary to stay up until 2am to press record and then remember to turn the tape over after 45 minutes. Over a period of 2/3 years, I probably only managed to get 10 or 15 mixes onto tape and the quality was not the best.

My problem subsided for a while as I went through a phase of buying the back catalogues of the Global Underground, Fabric and FabricLive compilation sets, but buying CDs can be costly when done in bulk and even then, the mixes would rarely be released more often than once a month. This was an expensive hobby to keep up.

In 2007 I turned to the Internet again as I realised I could use the BBC's "Listen again" feature to record the Essential Mix at any time during the week. This new method of recording, combined with my collection of CDs gave me quite a large bank of music. However remembering to record the mixes was still a hassle, surely it could be easier?

During 2008, something amazing happened. The problem was not solved once or even twice, within a few months I had found 4 incredible ways to listen to as much music as I want all for free.

  • Firstly I discovered Internet radio stations such as which provide a huge range of non-stop mixes 24 hours a day.
  • Then I signed up for . A fully legal service which provides a large selection of songs for free over the Internet, without adverts.
  • Next, I found an application for my mobile, an Apple iPhone , which allows me to connect to any radio station in the world. It's called WunderRadio and uses the RadioTime technology.
  • Finally, BBC released its excellent iPlayer website which allows anyone to listen to any Radio 1 show from the past 7 days.

There is no turning back, the Internet now supplies everyone with fresh, new music non-stop. And it is all free and fully legal.