The first part of this post collated music that soundtracked work activities. I differentiated ‘work songs’ from ‘workplace background music’. The lines drawn between these categories are a bit blurry in traditional oral cultures but, since the ‘workplace’ as such is strongly associated with industrial capitalism, they still (ahem) work. Once recorded music comes along, and we move more into white collar work, things start to get a bit messier. Though there might remain strong differences between company and worker, the dividing line between production and consumption definitely starts to fade. The company song and the corporate anthem are songs about working environments, for instance, but aren’t exactly a worker’s reflection on that work. Indeed, they seem to encourage workers to consume the idea of the company and the idea of work.
The production/consumption division also gets muddied from the other side as well, with music being an important gelling agent in retail and hospitality spaces, or circulating in intra-industry circles to strengthen a brand, for instance. The below brings together ways in which music is put to work to aid the process of buying and selling, alongside a quick survey of popular ‘songs about work’ – that is songs that comment on the nature of work more critically while themselves being offered up for consumption – or, in a pleasing return to the times of the Light Programme, played on the radio in the office background.