Have you ever struggled so much to amplify your own music — maybe at a picnic or a party — that you’ve put your iPhone in a plastic cup so your friends can all hear it?

I’m in that situation frequently. I’m never organised enough to bring a Bluetooth speaker with me when I go anywhere.

It becomes a particular issue when I’m in hotels — none of which every provide any kind of sound system — and want to entertain others.

I also find it an issue at the beach, when I want to share my music with friends rather than sit with my headphones in, and anywhere I’m trying to cram people around a 5-inch screen to watch a YouTube video and have to caveat it with, “trust me, if you could hear it, it’s amazing!”

In preparation for an upcoming romantic weekend away with my husband, I finally own one of those portable Bluetooth speakers. The lifeproof Sony ones that can play music everywhere from the showers of the Hilton to the sand dudes of Mt Maunganui and still survive — things I’m all stoked to try out.

Now I’m thinking about all the other places I can BYO tunes. Outdoor workouts at the park! Spring barbecues (they’re just around the corner)! My parents’ house (because they still don’t have anything beyond a CD player)!

Yet the following has also dawned on me: is playing your own music in public obnoxious?

I live on a busy suburban street in Wellington surrounded by multiple high schools, so the passing annoyance of somebody else’s choice of music on a tinny smartphone speaker is nothing new to me.

Every weekday after 3pm, my house is submitted to Drake or Cardi B or whoever else is rocking the Top 40 charts that week. I’m forced to imagine teenagers twerking along in their uniforms and am left to wait 45 seconds until traffic drowns the sound out as they move along.

Now I’m faced with being the donor of said loud and unwanted noise to others. I’m the owner of a device that will have me share what I want to listen to, without any say from others around me. Don’t want to listen to Pod Save America? Poo poo to you. Sick of hearing Ariana Grande’s No Tears Left To Cry? Tough. I’m in control now.

As I assume you’ve gathered, I know the playing of my own music in public is going to be objectionable. I’m already imagining hotel management calling to inform me of other guests’ complaints and mums at the pool telling me not to expose their children to cuss words.

What I’m left to ponder now is how to manage this. What etiquette is there concerning personal music in public situations? Can I avoid being a dickhead and still listen out loud?

I’m hoping so. I will keep the volume at the lower end of the scale. I will respect people who ask me to turn it down. I’ll skip the track when Nicki Minaj comes on because her lyrics are problematic for even the most liberal of eavesdroppers.

I also won’t be doing what the BBC calls “sodcasting”; best described as playing unwanted music through a phone on public transport. When people don’t have the option to move away from your noise, like on a bus or train, it definitely moves from obnoxious to downright rude.

In the above BBC article, the argument is made that playing music in public for all to hear is anti-social. That, I don’t agree with.

When inoffensive tunes are played, they are a great way to make people more social. I personally love it when somebody is playing the latest Years & Years banger on the beach for all to hear. Were it to offended me, I’d just pick up my towel and move.

Playing your own music in public is going to be contentious. Everybody has different tastes, and some of them are for silence.

While I can appreciate that, we don’t live in a silent world. We live with other people, and we can’t control them. I think it’s better to make peace with the fact that things are just a bit too noisy sometimes.



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