Listen While You Work! Recommended Podcasts & Music for Creatives


©tuccicursive 2015 Pigma Micron/Pen&Ink from Life Magazine photo

One of the perks of being a paid artist, who works at their ‘desk,’ is the ability to listen to whatever you want. I’ve had a penchant for actually listening to movies and television shows – as a writer it has really helped me understand the craft of storytelling – but I really do enjoy the unique podcasts and music programs listed below for keeping me in creative company.

It’s been said that listening to music helps promote your creativity. In fact, according to a Fast Company article, ‘moderate noise level is the sweet spot for creativity’ it promotes ‘abstract processing’ which leads to higher creativity.

Dr. Amit Sood, an Integrative medicine physician with the Mayo Clinic also noted the power of music. In a New York Times Article, Dr. Sood says that people’s minds tend to wander and that a wandering mind is an ‘unhappy’ – focusing on the imperfections of life. (And perhaps the imperfections of one’s work) It is music that can bring us back to the present moment.

I’ve always said that folks who work in cafes’ are not only there for the company of others around them, but for the ambient sound. The café working experience is both a communal and private one that helps people concentrate.  If you can’t get to the cafe, there are actually a few services that can give you at least the ambient sound like Coffivity and SoundDrown. The coffee you’ll have to serve yourself.

For music I recommend LA’s KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. It was part of my morning ritual when I lived in Los Angeles, and it is still part of my morning ritual back on the East Coast, though occasionally the SIG alerts give me anxiety.  KCRW DJ’s, according to its site, are given one directive –  “play what you love,” and it’s evident. The DJ’s curate the latest and newest music I would never find anywhere else. I also love Anne Litt’s program.

World Cafe hosted by David Dye is also an eclectic mix of music, small concerts and interviews that actually discuss the process of making music.

If I’m not listening to music, I am listening to one of the many podcasts below – Discussions, storytelling and amazing narratives.   Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist says in this Big Think article, ‘narrative coherence helps us to navigate the world.’

Here’s a list of what helps me navigate my creative world:

RadioLab – For question lovers. An unexpected mix of science and philosophy edited so brilliantly, it can (according to my friend) quiet any kid filled car.

Invisibilia – A deeper cut of RadioLab, asking the questions about things we cannot see. Always so thought provoking and moving. Highly recommended.

The Memory Palace – is moving from their host “Maximum Fun” but listen to its older episodes and keep your eye on this amazing podcast. The episodes are steeped in history and memory and yet are impossibly short.

You Must Remember This – Karina Longworth does her homework, giving you the secrets of Old Hollywood with in depth storytelling and memoir like episodes.

Moth Radio Hour – Edgy, imperfect stories from your neighbors, celebrities and perhaps one day even from you.

Pitch – Small and (pitch) perfect episodes on ideas & music and sound.

Neighbors – A smaller maybe low-budget version of This American Life, where stories are told in  by Jakob Lewis’s neighbors, making you wonder about your own neighbors’ stories.

ScriptNotes– “Car Talk” for ScriptWriters. But I often recommend it to all creative folks, because the craft discussion reaches all type of storytelling.

Here’s The Thing – Alec Baldwin’s interview podcast. The discussion is often specific and not about promotion, but more about craft and technique. His interviews with Elaine Stritch and Josh Fox (Gasland) were riveting.

WTF – with Marc Maron. This is not for everyone, Maron’s neuroses were difficult to listen to in the beginning, but he gets the most interesting and sometimes intimate conversations because of his own vulnerability. I have grown to love him.   And aside from all this, it’s funny.

Studio360 Hosted by Kurt Anderson, this is a great ‘on air’ magazine featuring artists, musicians and inventors.  They also have an American Icon series that profiles culture legends and a ReDesign series that  challenges listeners to redesign, rework or invent classic or new pieces.

The Bowery Boys – These guys eat, breathe, drink and sleep NY.  Highly detailed narratives about the City that doesn’t sleep.

StarTalk – Hosted by Neil de Grasse Tyson.  Will make you as start struck with the Universe as Tyson is.

Finally, my friend Casey’ Wolfe’s Earbud Theater.  Full disclosure – my short “Carl” produced by Earbud won an Audio Verse Award. What I love about Wolfe’s endeavor is that it harkens back to the radio days where it was possible to tell a captivating, scary, mysterious story and hold an audience with no visual narrative. I’m hoping more folks tune into his vintage and yet unique podcast.

What’s your favorite thing to listen to while you’re working?


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