Social Question

tom_g's avatar

Why is it ok to play music while outside?

Asked by tom_g (16635points) August 9th, 2012

When and/or why did it become socially acceptable to play music through a portable radio or car speakers when working outside? I will admit that one of my favorite things in the entire world is silence, so I may not be the most sensible person in evaluating this. I’m open to the possibility that I am overlooking something that is just part of human nature or part of our collective history or something.

Here are some scenarios that are quite common:
– Person is cleaning car in driveway. Music is played loudly through the car speakers.
– Someone is painting the exterior of a house. Music is played loudly through a “boombox” (whatever you call those things now).

Again, I will show my bias here. My instant reaction is to interpret this avoidance of being present for a simple, honest task as a way to drown out the voices in one’s head. How is painting a house not enough? Existence for most of us is a perpetual assault of audio input. Is there nothing appealing to simply attending to a task? And more importantly – where do they get the confidence to say, “I want to listen to music, so I am also going to make you listen to my music.”?

Is this public music blasting a mere co-opting of some other social, human desire that has disappeared in modern society, or is this simply a case of people not giving a sh*t about anyone else?

NOTE: Please hold the first world problem comments. I’m well aware that this is one.

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18 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Because some of us really enjoy music and listening to it while we work makes the task at hand go by easier and faster. Stop being so uptight. If it bothers you that much get a set of noise canceling headphones and just put them on or move away from people.

marinelife's avatar

It isn’t if it too loud or intrusive. Ask them to please turn in down so it is heard only in their area.

josie's avatar

Same reason it is OK for people to exhale on the subway when they don’t brush or floss their teeth and make me want to puke. It’s part of living in the world with at least one other person. What else bugs you?

Jeruba's avatar

@tom_g, I don’t think it is socially acceptable. I just think it’s done regardless.

Some people may honestly not realize how far their noise carries and can’t imagine that if they enjoy the music, others wouldn’t too. But in general I think it is just another instance of overt rudeness and public indifference to others’ feelings. Runaway entitlement.

I understand and sympathize, and I, for one, am not going to chide you for being sensitive on the point. I can’t make my quiet louder than the neighbors’ noise. If someone is invading my space with noise so huge that I can’t escape it anywhere in my house, it should not be up to me to try to cancel it or shut it out. I should not have to close all my windows in warm weather and use earplugs or headphones because a neighbor is having a loud party, or worse, just wants a deafening racket to accompany him whenever he’s outside.

Likewise, there’s virtually no defense against bad smells. We can’t close off those senses. The same problem exists if a neighbor is spray-painting an automobile in a driveway just upwind of my front door, or letting a motorcycle idle for half an hour, and even if he is barbecuing at the far end of his yard, away from his own house, which puts him under our bedroom window. The smell of burning flesh or exhaust fumes fills our house. It doesn’t bother him any.

But I am also aware that these days a request for consideration is apt to attract belligerence, redoubling of the offense, and even retaliation. I have encountered this kind of reaction in the workplace, in anonymous public situations (for example, someone talking during a movie), and in the neighborhood, where the retaliation once cost us thousands of dollars to repair—luckily covered by insurance. I don’t have a good answer. Fortunately our problem eventually moved away, but he tortured me for three unforgettable years, and I still have a sore spot there.

wundayatta's avatar

We just had our house painted. And we had to live with the phenomenon you bring up for a month. He explained to my wife that he needed his tunes or he couldn’t work.

Where I live, it is very common. So much so, that the radio he was using was made by a power tool company—I forget which one. In any case, it was the one that makes the yellowy power tools, and the radio looked tough, like a power tool. A real workman’s radio. You could probably drop it off a scaffolding and it would never miss a beat.

Before the invention of the Sony Walkman, boom boxes were everywhere. From the streets of the city to the subway cars to the parks to the shores of the ocean, if you were in public, you traveled from one sphere of sonic influence to the next, sometimes in every fifteen feet traveled. It was horrible!

Sony saved us from all that. The walkman allowed us to have our own personal music without disturbing anyone else. Except workmen.

I’m guessing there’s a reason why workmen can’t use an iPod like everyone else. Probably the headphones won’t stay in their ears and the wires might create a hazard, were one to catch on a power tool. So for workmen, if you want music, you need to go back to the boom box era.

It always was rude, in my opinion. And yet, what are you going to do? Pay the guy extra to turn off the tunes? I suppose in some cases there are noise ordinances about this. Maybe they can be enforced, but again, you really don’t want to piss off your guy. So sometimes you grin and bear it for a month. Or in this case, there was only one day I was home when he was working, and I just arranged to be at the opposite end of the house from where he was working. My wife, on the other hand, seemed to not mind so much. And the guy talked her ear off, too!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yup. Next, there’ll be kids on your lawn, and your neighbors will wait more than 12 hours after the trash has been picked up to take in the cans. People!

The part where you really lost me was where you asked why painting the house is “not enough”. Have you painted the house recently? It’s a horrible task. Almost no one paints the house because it’s just so fun, they paint it because it has to be painted. Why would you not make it more pleasant if you could?

Not everyone enjoys silence. Not everyone has the same thought process; for some, music is a way to enhance their thoughts, not get away from them, or to zero in on one particular thought so they can pay it more attention.

JLeslie's avatar

There are laws against very loud noise. People are entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of their residence. Usually it requires only making noise others can hear during the hours of the day that most people are awake, and still keeping the noise within reason. It’s tricky for peope who work third shift and their sleep patterns are the reverse of everyone else. And, of course people don’t only want peace and quiet while sleeping, many want it during the day too. My sister used to live near a church in NYC, and sometimes the bells were early and loud, and people complained. Funny, a noisy city like NYC, but still there were expectations of quiet.

As far as workmen, I think they should be allowed to play music within reason. I enjoy listening to music while at work, especially when it is physical labor. Makes the job easier.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I occasionally enjoy playing music in my backyard while I’m out there. I’m such an awful bitch! And so is my neighbor.~

zenvelo's avatar

This is nothing new. I remember people walking down the street listening to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on a transistor radio in 1963. And my older brother used to move his speakers to the window while he did work in the backyard.

I get Libertarian about this kind of stuff. As long as you don’t bother people, you should be able to listen to whatever and wherever you wish.

augustlan's avatar

I’m usually a ‘silence is golden’ girl, but when I’m doing physical labor, I really enjoy listening to music (this is always inside, though…I don’t do any physical stuff outside!) Fairly loud music, specifically. If someone were bothered by it and asked me to turn it down, I would comply.

Having grown up in the 80s when everyone had a boombox, I don’t really think anything of people playing music outside, unless it’s very loud. The only times I really encounter that, though, is in my car. Being at a stoplight near someone whose bass shakes my whole car really pisses me off. Especially if it’s profanity filled and there are kids in my car. Hmph.

tom_g's avatar

Wow. Thanks everyone. This was enlightening. Even those that didn’t necessarily answer the question really did.

Jeruba's avatar


> As long as you don’t bother people…

And that’s the issue right there, not freedom of choice in music.

jordym84's avatar

We’re all different and some people need something more to help them get through a task. There doesn’t need to be a reason behind it, sometimes things just are…As long as the volume of the music isn’t causing anyone harm (physical or otherwise), I say “live and let live.”

It used to bug me a lot to see people inflict their music upon everyone else around them, but I’ve learned to turn a deaf ear to it instead of getting all worked up.

wilma's avatar

As long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. That really is the crux of the issue.
I am often bothered by my neighbors loud music. I don’t care what you want to listen to, just don’t make me listen to it too.

Jeruba's avatar

Would you ever-so-tolerant folks feel the same if the music next door were at blast level from 8 a.m. to midnight every single day?

How about if it were during your sleeping hours? or while you were trying to do paying work at home, work that required brains and heavy concentration?

How about if you couldn’t hear the dialogue on your own TV even with your doors and windows closed, without turning it loud enough to hurt your ears? How about if there was no hour of peace in your day or evening?

How about if your politely worded requests for a lower volume were met with hostility, rude language, and name calling?

How about if it were not music but large dogs kept outside in their yard and barking nonstop day and night?

Is it your belief that the best way to deal with an aggressive bully who has no regard for others is to submit without protest?

augustlan's avatar

@Jeruba If it were short term (say, for the length of a party), I would grin and bear it. If the parties happened every night, though, I would definitely speak up. Likewise for all day noise assaults. If my polite requests were met with hostility and the situation didn’t improve, I’d move on to formal complaints to the proper authority (police? city hall? Not sure who handles noise issues.) Long story short, my tolerance would only go so far.

Jeruba's avatar

@augustlan, in contrast, we have other next-door neighbors who give frequent backyard parties for a large number of friends and relatives. Theirs seems to be the venue of choice for all birthdays and other celebrations.

They set up a canopy. They start the music mid-afternoon. They use a microphone. They light the yard with bright lights. They have lots of little kids screaming and squealing. They barbecue and make smoke.

I have no complaint to make about this, none at all. They are good neighbors, respectful and courteous. Apart from this, they are quiet except for some kid noise and TV spillover. And their parties never run past 10:00 p.m.

I regard this as part of the expected ebb and flow of urban living. It’s normal and is just the sound of folks having fun. It doesn’t last long, it’s only a little intrusive, and most of all, it isn’t hostile or aggressive.

Don’t these differences count? They do to me.

yankeetooter's avatar

I totally agree with you on this issue. I feel it all comes down to society’s belief that it is okay to impose your noise, cigarette smoke, etc., on others. I live in a second floor apartment, and my neighbors downstairs sit outside and talk loudly to all hours of the night. I have my windows closed in the summer (since the AC is on), and I still can’t sit in my living room and watch TV without being disturbed by their talking. And the sad thing is, people don’t seem to care how their actions may affect others…they have a sense of entitlement to act however, regardless of other’s feelings.

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