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Many students are using Lofi hip hop genre of music to aid their studies

See the late-teen boy in his bedroom after his zoom lecture has finished, reading over notes, finding appropriate texts, or flicking through Twitter, with ChilledCow’s 24/7 stream of ‘lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to’ woozing and wobbling and the chat moving like rain down a window as listeners introduce themselves as twelve/fifteen/ twenty year olds from all over, preparing for exams or school, at anywhen – 4:00, 12:00, 19:00, 23:00 – and mutually supporting each other to see the work through.

See the middle-aged woman lying in bed, asleep – asleep without that feeling of “finally,” as the long-term struggle with insomnia has started to wane – with Spotify’s Classical Sleep playlist, playing through her pillow speaker, as a steady foundation for her head and mind. See the man in his early thirties putting himself up against himself and what’s left of his twenty-km while Big L’s ‘Put It On’ settles into his rhythm and its own.

Music can facilitate study, sleep, exercise, socialising. It creates atmospheres and enhances or changes moods. There is strong qualitative and some quantitative data which suggests music can improve aspects of sleeping. A study of comments on a selection of YouTube videos of soothing music found it helped them cope with insomnia and other such disorders and mental health problems which cause sleep deprivation, while a minority reported that it did not help. In addition to relaxing, anotherstudy suggested, music can provide distraction from stressful thoughts – be that reflection on haunting memories, mentally writing to-do lists, or having anxieties about an event coming soon – or even alter moods from, for instance, sad to happy (insert the dead meme of listening to Frank Ocean at 3:00); but, again, the bulk of the data involved people saying they slept better (qualitative), with the numerical data suggesting that the time it took for them to sleep was improved but the quality of their sleep wasn’t affected.

Lofi hip hop beats have become synonymous with studying. The cover art for the ChilledCow’s 24/7 livestream is a girl studying. Compilations, playlists, and radio shows playing these beats usually have “study” in their title or description. Again, it’s that numbing of peripheral distraction, with the added mutual support in the chat of other people studying and working (chat moderators try to keep the tone clean). A certain connected disconnection.

A portion of the analysis in a study of lofi hip hop suggested that the genre, and use of the genre, is a consequence of the realised and ongoing collapse of work-leisure boundaries. This means something leisurely, relaxing, like music is used to enable work productivity. Boundaries blur. Everything can be done at once, to meet and treat needs or desires or demands.

mackayan: music, sleep, study

Counteracting sleep inertia also points towards this facilitating role music or sound plays. Sleep inertia is when you wake up and feel slow to come to, and your concentration and general performance is impaired. This can be dangerous if you wake up suddenly, feel groggy, and need to drive to work; your decision making will be weaker and reaction time slower which could lead to an accident, for instance.

A study – again focussing on qualitative data gathered through an online questionnaire – had trouble determining what kind of music and sounds would best counteract sleep inertia. However, attempts to understand it are being made. Aside from the extreme potential consequences of sleep inertia (accidents, etc.), incorporating effective methods of counteracting sleep inertia and beginning one’s day alert and “ready” is another step towards enabling productivity. Time in the morning is in preparation for work, little leisure.

There is a little irony here. Producers of lofi hiphop, for instance, tend to exist outside of the revenue making systems. As is noted by Emma Winston and Laurence Saywood, producers submit tracks to channels like ChilledCow to be considered to be put on their playlists, so, while the channel will be part of YouTube’s revenue stream, the original producer isn’t.

The other option would be streaming platforms. Musicians make little to no money from Spotify: the Guardian reported in March 2020 that analysts estimates are £2.74 per 1000 streams. Generating publicity could be difficult as lofi hip hop beats can seem homogenous. Tracks become interchangeable. While there are dominant figures like jinsang (roughly 1.8 million monthly streams on Spotify, as of September 2020), listeners gravitate towards playlists and 24/7 streams curated by established, popular channels or streaming platforms as opposed to self-created playlists and individual artist’s albums.

And so going to an artist’s Bandcamp page to purchase favourite albums – while still potentially an option (a user could buy jinsang’s entire discography for $24.50, for instance) – is unlikely, as this music is hugely accessible via convenient sources already, and the music could be seen to serve more of a “function” than other kinds of music. Finally, in 2017 Vulture reported that Spotify was loop-holing its own royalty system by populating their playlists with fake artists and using a single-payment method to get producers to craft songs for their “Chill” playlist and others of that kind.

See the writer avoiding writing a clever line about hip hop loops and systemic loops, finding synchronicity in the beats and the asynchronic keyboard taps, conforming letters to a motif.

Meet Tyler on the Team page & visit the Music Department