Friday, March 10, 2017

Best Music Streaming Service For The Operating Room

For some reason the anesthesiologist has become the de facto music DJ in the operating room. Funny since I never took an elective in DJ 101 in medical school or residency. But since we are presumably the only members in the operating room who have "free" time to put on everybody's favorite tunes, people just expect anesthesia to provide the entertainment while they "work". Music is so integral with the job of an anesthesiologist that I've devoted several posts to them. I wonder if Ralph Waters or Virginia Apgar ever got requests to play their surgeons' favorite radio stations while they were busy revolutionizing anesthesiology.

When I first started my career in the early aughts, CD's were still the standard way to play music. I remember anesthesiologists whose carts were stuffed with CD's, all the better to ensure that the surgeon's favorite music format was available. Then the iPod came along and revolutionized OR music. Suddenly people had thousands of songs at the ready in their pockets. In fact, this took away some of the burden of being a DJ since the surgeons often brought their own iPods with them. We just plugged it in and played the folder they requested.

No nobody carries iPods. Instead we all have phones. But phones aren't ideal for playing music since the surgeon doesn't want the tunes to be interrupted by an incoming call. So once again the anesthesiologist is in charge. But CD's are dead. Everybody now streams their music instead of carrying around a bunch of MP3 files. All you need is a phone or computer that can log into the internet and a good Wi-Fi signal.

Since there are dozens of excellent music streaming services out there, I'm going to give you my opinion of only the ones I've tried. It's not all encompassing and my tastes are pretty mainstream. Almost all of them have a free tier and a paid tier. I always use the free services. I have enough hands reaching into my wallet to pay for another subscription service. I need to mention that I am NOT endorsing any of these services or getting paid for mentioning them. I'm just doing this as an educational service for my fellow anesthesiologist. So here is the rundown.

Apple Music--I never use it. Why? Again because I'm cheap. They don't have a free service with ads. It's either pay a monthly fee or nothing. Plus I never feel hip enough to listen to their main music channel Beats 1. So pass.

Amazon Music--Since I am an Amazon Prime member, this service is free. Unfortunately they've recently introduced another tier of membership that requires a monthly fee. Naturally I haven't signed up for that. But the free section is pretty nice. One nice perk is that virtually every single CD you've ever bought from Amazon has their MP3 files automatically loaded into your Music app. Therefore your old CD's are available with the click of a button without having to carry them around. I was amazed how many CD's I had bought over the last two decades. The reason I don't use Amazon Music that much is that their themed playlists are pretty limited. The lists don't have a great number of songs in each so it gets pretty repetitious.

Pandora--This was what everybody was using a couple of years ago. It was a revelation to be able to request virtually any song ever recorded and it just starts playing through your speakers. So why don't I use it anymore? I got seriously annoyed with it when I would request a song or artist and Pandora would start substituting what they think I would like to hear instead. If I want to listen to Louis Armstrong, I want to hear Louis Armstrong. I don't want it to play something else it thinks I would like too. Too many frustrations so it is gone from my life.

Spotify--This one is so close to residing in my home row of app buttons. They play what I want them to play. It is mostly free. If I want to listen to Joshua Tree by U2, I can get it without them streaming something else they think I might want to try. Sure the album would play in random order in the free tier but I can live with that. So why isn't it my default streaming service? Again their computer generated playlists are pretty small. Over the long course of a multilevel spine operation I don't want to hear the same song three times or have to search for another channel to play. Though I don't use Spotify every day I still keep it as my backup.

I Heart Radio--This is my go to streaming service for a year now. In fact I'm listening to it as I'm writing this. (FYI I'm not at work while I'm writing.) Why has I Heart Radio captured my heart? As you can probably guess, it's free. Yes they have a subscription tier but I haven't found a need to go there. You can listen to terrestrial radio stations if you like, as long as they're part of the I Heart Media corporation. The most popular stations in Los Angeles are on there, like KIIS FM and KBIG. But mostly I use the service because they have excellent playlists. I usually play I Heart 70's, I Heart 80's, I Heart 90's, etc. playlists depending on the age and tastes of the surgeons. They have hundreds of playlists to choose from and you can listen to them almost all day without hearing a repeat. Many people in the OR have asked me where I got the music since the selection is so good. They frequently guess Spotify and are surprised when I say I Heart Radio. They almost always say they are going to download the app to try.

So for all you anesthesiologists who have to suffer through another request for music by your surgeon, I hope this helps. With the modern miracle of music streaming, we no longer have to lug around a bunch of physical music media to satisfy everybody's tastes and whims. This is probably the greatest advance in the well being of the anesthesiologist since the invention of the skin temperature sticker.

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