What is Lo-fi Music and Why Is it so Popular?

Lo-fi music has become a major genre during the global lockdowns of 2020. Many people have found themselves stuck at home all day, trying to find the motivation to do work, study and chores, with more time to kill by going online, and the growth of lo-fi music has been the result.

So what exactly is lo-fi music?

It’s a form of downtempo music with elements of hip-hop and jazz, featuring breakbeats, sampling and textures such as environmental noise and vinyl scratching sounds. Samples are often taken from old films. This gives it a cosy, often nostalgic sound, ideal to relax to or as ‘bedroom music’.

Lo-fi music is found on popular streaming sites such as Spotify and also has dedicated YouTube channels, the biggest of them being ChilledCow. ChilledCow’s animation of an anime girl doing her homework has become an internet meme, such is the popularity of the channel.

It is indeed an ideal music genre to study to, which is probably why it has been especially popular for younger listeners. Unobtrusive enough to have on in the background but stimulating enough to keep you awake, it helps you maintain your focus. ChilledCow also has a chat function, so provides a place to hang out for people seeking connection during these somewhat isolating times, with many users opening up about personal issues.

The genre has not escaped criticism, however. Detractors have accused lo-fi creators of being lazy, as much of the music is essentially similar-sounding, and easy to make, with creators able to make their own material on apps such as Bandcamp (I myself have recently become a dabbler in Bandcamp). It has been argued that all you really need to know in order to create lo-fi music is how to sample (haven’t quite learnt that bit yet).

But it’s the sampling that really makes the difference. You can put a unique flavour on lo-fi music depending on what you choose to sample. A couple of my favourite lo-fi channels on YouTube include one which samples vintage songs and another which samples the Star Wars films (this last is especially fun).

And lo-fi music’s popularity shows no sign of dying out. The numbers speak for themselves: at the time of writing this article, Spotify’s biggest lo-fi playlist, ‘Lo-fi Beats’, has over three and a half million followers. And ChilledCow has nearly seven million subscribers.

Clearly, for many internet users, lo-fi music creates a safe space to work and study. The chat room functions also fulfil a social need during these strange times. The music is not always necessarily all that pioneering, true. But if it’s helping people, can we really knock it?

Many more people work and study from home these days. Without a dedicated workspace or office, lo-fi music helps create a kind of cocoon that reduces outside distractions and, due to its downtempo, calming properties, helps reduce anxiety.

Because we do seem to live in an age of anxiety. Whether it’s economic anxiety, the stress of living through lockdowns, or anxiety about COVID-19 itself, many people are increasingly escaping into the aural realm for relaxation.

I think millennials especially are drawn to lo-fi, and the evidence does seem to point to that – feeing the need as we sometimes do for a nostalgic, safe space to retreat. When we have fears about the future, the past is often a safe place to escape to.

Five Productivity Tips You May Not Know About, from A Fledging Freelancer

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Many more people are working from home now, and perhaps, like me, you are pushing for your dream of becoming a freelancer. The matter of motivation, therefore, rests almost entirely on you and you alone. How can you increase your productivity? A quick Google search on the subject will yield hundreds of results, but with so much, often contradictory, advice, what is the best approach to take?

It all comes down to personal preference, of course. However, in this article I want to share five things that have really helped me and I think may help you too: some are recent discoveries; some are older, time-honoured tips but so easy to forget.

Anyway, without further ado, here they are:

1. Listen to Lo-fi

Or lo-fi hip hop to be more precise (or chillhop as it’s sometimes known). It’s a downbeat musical style that incorporates breakbeats, sampling and textures, and has gained massive online popularity during the worldwide lockdowns of 2020. It’s the ideal kind of music to listen to when you want to focus on work or study. This is because it’s unobtrusive enough to have on in the background, but stimulating enough to stop you from nodding off. There are many playlists and live-streams of lo-fi music on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. Lo-fi music is easily my biggest productivity discovery of late, and I think you should give it a go.

 

2. Plenty of Daylight

By this I don’t mean you should work outside (although this always an option), but it’s worth remembering that daylight naturally makes us feel more awake. By making sure there’s plenty of daylight in your workspace, you’re more likely to be productive because you’ll feel less sleepy. So fling back those curtains and open those blinds – it’ll help. And fresh air is never a bad thing either.

 

3. Limit Distractions

It’s important to limit environmental distractions to increase your productivity and focus. Find a quiet spot to work in and invest in some noise-cancelling headphones if you need them.

It’s equally important to limit electronic distractions. You have to be strict with yourself here. Don’t check social media during your work or study time. Don’t keep checking your phone notifications or email inbox. A stable, predictable environment with as few distractions as possible will help your brain to focus better without becoming overtired.

 

4. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re tired, it’s going to be harder to focus. Fact. Tiredness will sap your motivation. You may overcompensate by drinking lots of coffee, but this can make you jittery and find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. The only sensible answer, then, is to get enough sleep.

What constitutes enough sleep will vary for each person. If six hours is enough for you, great. But if you need nine hours, make sure you get them. And if you’re not an early morning person, don’t try to force yourself to be. Getting up early will only increase your productivity if your body clock is used to it, not if you’re sleep-deprived. You have to work with your own natural rhythm.

 

5. Take a Break

Sometimes you’ll find, despite your best intentions, you just can’t focus. Maybe you’re tired, worried, stressed, or restless. Maybe you think you should just try to push through. But this probably won’t make you more productive. More likely you’ll just spend most of your time staring at a blank screen or trying desperately to understand a spreadsheet which normally wouldn’t be that difficult.

In this case, I think the best thing to do is give yourself a break. Just do what is absolutely necessary that day and cut yourself some slack for the rest of it. Take a nap. Go for a run. Spend time with friends or family. Whatever you need to do to recharge. Then, when you return to your work, you’ll be refreshed and maybe even inspired, and this will naturally increase your productivity.

 

I hope these tips help. Have you got any productivity tips you’d like to share? I’d be glad to hear them!