By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Although there is no direct mention of a prohibition on listening to music during Sefira in any of the primary halachic works, it has become a widespread custom to refrain from doing so. While all authorities agree that it is forbidden to enjoy live music during Sefira, there is a difference of opinion whether or not this extends to recorded music, as well. Most authorities rule that there is no difference between live music and recorded music and both are forbidden to be enjoyed during Sefira. In fact, many such authorities even forbid listening to acapella music.
Other authorities argue that a device which did not exist at the time when the ban on listening to music was made, such as a radio or CD player, is not included in the ban on music. Even the more stringent authorities permit one to listen to recorded music in private if not being able to do so would result in being sad or depressed. It is permitted to play children’s music for their enjoyment. One whose entire income revolves around live music is permitted to perform during sefira.
In order to properly understand the difference of opinion regarding the issue of listening to recorded music during Sefira some background is in order. The entire issue regarding whether or not music is permitted during Sefira derives from the Magen Avraham who writes that one may not dance during Sefira. Many authorities have interpreted or extended this ruling to include listening to any music, since dancing is closely associated with music. Others limit the ban on listening to music during Sefira to music which leads to dancing. Therefore, for example, since listening to background music when driving cannot possibly lead to dancing a number of authorities permit one to do so.
Rabbi Mordechai Willig is of the opinion that since there is no early source to indicate a specific prohibition on listening to music during the Sefira period there should be nothing inherently wrong with doing so. He argues that while it is true that one may not engage in excessively joyous activities (such as dancing), listening to music does not convey the same sense of excitement and joy that dancing does. Therefore, he rules that listening to recorded music is permissible.
Be sure to see Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz for more on music in general and during Sefira in particular: http://www.bknw.org/library/articles/miscellaneous/Music%20during%20Sefirah.pdf
 Igrot Moshe, OC 2:137; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 493:8.
 Aruch Hashulchan, OC 493:2, Igrot Moshe, OC 1:166.
 Az Nidberu 8:58; Igrot Moshe, OC 1:167; Tzitz Eliezer15:33.
 Shevet Halevi 8:127, Salmat Chaim 4:21.
 Chelkat Yaakov 1:62, cited at: http://www.bknw.org/library/articles/miscellaneous/Music%20during%20Sefirah.pdf
 Hilchot Chag B’chag p.63, Halichot Shlomo, Moadim 2:11:14.
 Halichot Shlomo;Moadim 2:11 note 53.
 Igrot Moshe, OC 3:87.
 Aruch Hashulchan, OC 493:2, Igrot Moshe, OC 1:166, Yechave Da’at 3:30.
 Eleh Hem Moadai, Sefirat Ha’omer p. 402 – 424; Mekadesh Yisrael 65.
 Cited at: http://www.bknw.org/library/articles/miscellaneous/Music%20during%20Sefirah.pdf. See also She’ilat Shlomo 1:214.