Music While You Code – A Distraction?

Several classes on software development practices will tell you that programmers are more productive in a quiet environment undisturbed by external forces. Distractions prevent a programmer from entering “The Zone,” which is a state in which the programmer is fully focused on the problem before them and its solution. Yet more than half of the developers that I know, myself included, listen to music while developing. Listening to music, even loud music, seems unable to inhibit a developer’s ability to enter the Zone.

From my own experience, listening to music while developing serves as a form of white noise. At times the office can be a noisy place, even if the noise is not directly connected to you. People discussing projects, the ringing of a phone. These and other sounds can serve as just enough of a distraction to interrupt a train of thought.

Listening to music, on the other hand, allows for me to mask these other sounds, and after listening to music for a while, my brain puts it in the background. More often than naught, I will have no idea what music has played while I’ve been coding or even realize that it has reached the end of my playlist. The music also serves as a good break from debugging hard to find glitches in code or when dealing with the quirks of software necessary to develop software.

I would be interested in hearing what other developers think of the issue. Is it a distraction or do you listen to music while coding for similar reasons?