Basically it would seem that there is little correlation between listening to music and working "better" or more efficiently... It seems that music, at least music with words in a language you can understand or hip-hop music, actually servers to make you "less focused" on work.
If you have strong feelings about the music - good or bad - you tend to concentrate less on work as well. Music you don't care much about either way is less distracting.
Most of these observations revolve around the use of headphones in the office - a recent technological development - at least compared to the 40,000 year old ivory flutes pictured right (from Ars Technica).
Music, religion and writing seem to me to be what separates man from the animals (chimpanzees have been shown to be tool users so tools are out in that regard). So it would seem that music and man have a long history together - one that modern office environments don't share.
I personally like music while I work but I am careful about what kinds of work I allow music to invade and why.
Many years ago I used to go out for nightly jogs - this was in the days of the "Walkman." Many joggers were out and about with headphones or "earphones" (no ear buds at this time). I always wondered about this.
Music makes it easy to be distracted while exercising - but distraction while running along a busy road?
I first observed this during the mid 1980's. We lived in a town where the "main drag" was a four lane road with a nice, well tended grass median in the middle and a big park along one side. You'd often see the joggers going along with their "walkmen" on.
Personally I've always found it hard enough after jogging a few miles on a hot day to deal with a heavy traffic crossing without distractions let alone with one like music.
I notice similar things today with driving - kids driving with headphones on (or earbuds in).
The driving instructor in my high school always made it very clear that driving with distractions put you at fault in an accident.
But today its common to see this. (Supposedly "hands free" phones are legal with "approved" earbuds). But still cell phone driving (and texting) are known to be as dangerous if not more so than "drunk" driving.
Again, I've always found that this kind of noise easily leads to distraction. You have several senses that you should be using to drive: sight, sound, touch, smell.
Sight is the most obvious - but what about the rest?
Touch is important, for example, in detecting vibrations, i.e., a tire has blown out and the steering wheel shakes, or you're off the edge of the road in the gravel or on the newer rumble strips, or you're hydroplaning out of control.
Smell matters if something mechanical goes wrong: the engine over heats, that sort of thing.
And then there's sound: hearing the rumble strip, hearing the horn blaring as you cut through an intersection without looking distracted by your music or girlfriend, not hearing the semi pulling up too close behind you, not hearing the little kids screaming and laughing behind the parked cars.
I think that for driving sound and touch are at least 40% of the information your mind picks up - sight being at least 55% or more. Of that 40% sound is, I think at least 50%, so over all 20% of the information entering your brain is sound as it relates to driving.
Headphones and earbuds eliminate that (loud music too if its so loud you can't hear the things you should).
Earbuds and headphones are even worse when operating heaving machinery.
I have a large brush hog - basically a single-blade lawn mower you attach to a tractor that can cut through 2 1/2" saplings and trees. It connects to the tractor via a Power Take Off (PTO) which is a rotating shaft about four feet long that spins at 540 revolutions per minute - a twenty some horse power diesel engine supply sufficient torque that if you get a hand caught in it either you're going to spin around with the shaft or your hand is coming off.
Sound and touch are critical, I think, when running this type of equipment because they are, in my experience, where the first sign of trouble often appears. PTO problems, for example, are often preceded by unusual sounds or vibrations.
With earbuds and/or headphones on you'll miss these.
All in all music, like alcohol, should be enjoyed responsibly, especially when the use of power equipment by your or others, involved.
In most states driving with headphones on, for example, is some sort of crime (save for "state approved" hands-free devices for cell phones).
I've had a farm tractor for about 14 years at this point and I would have to say that sound has saved me from a potentially serious injury a couple of times.
I don't plan on having music on my tractor any time soon...