Autoplay Music On The Homepage? No!

Old habits die hard; even the ones that deserve a swift death. Case in point, it never ceases amaze how many performing arts organizations still have an audio file set to autoplay when users visit the website’s homepage. For the most part, the online community crossed the autoplay=bad threshold back in 2011 and although most performing arts groups seem to have caught up to what everyone else realized a few years ago, a few groups seem to have lost the memo.

What’s Wrong With Autoplay? Everything.

ITA-GUY-004Back in the day, autoplay was just fine, but this was also the brief period of time from the onset of early broadband internet connections in major metropolitan areas and the onset of the Smartphone revolution.

Back then, browsing was restricted to desktop and laptop environments and surfing the net in working environments wasn’t as common as today. There was even time when having autoplay audio was a tool to demonstrate multimedia prowess.

Times have changed.

Today is a completely different story; mobile devices and high speed cellular connections mean people are in brave new world. High speed mobile devices mean people use the internet in public spaces and those spaces are still defined by personal space and autoplay music is nothing but intrusive.

Even tech style gods like Apple have developed an official position that autoplay auto isn’t kosher and went so far as to disable autoplay in Safari browsers on iOS devices.

If you need additional best practice related advice, then head over to the international community created to develop open standard for web growth, W3C (World Web Consortium). These folks determined that autoplay is sketchy business as well and laid out clear guidelines (section 1.4.2) for non-interference.

For all the folks who insist that orchestras and operas are all about what people hear so their websites must autoplay music so, let’s look at some more practical reasons.

  1. People aren’t as stupid as you think. Really. Simply put, they can find the area on your site that features media clips and play them if desired. And if you’re genuinely interested in bringing in new listeners, they are likely in a generation that knows how to use Facebook, send an email, and has a browser that wasn’t released in 2007. And if cute cat videos are any sign, folks have no trouble finding and sharing multimedia they find entertaining, you don’t have to hammer them with it.
  2. When did you become the harbinger of good taste? Who’s to say that the clip you select is going to appeal to such an overwhelming majority that it will create a meaningful emotional bond to begin with? Worst case scenario, you could actually turn away a potential ticket buyer.
  3. You’re only going to kill conversion. For those not in the know, conversion is important to your website. It means ticket sales, donations, or social shares. If you only believe a fraction of the mountain of evidence that says autoplaying audio is bad, then do some A/B testing and be sure.

In the end, there are no good reasons to have autoplay music at your organization’s site. Certainly, times may change and the opposite may once again be true but until then, play it smart and play to win the game of online conversion and leave autoplay behind.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “Autoplay Music On The Homepage? No!”

  1. It is really terrible to be looking at a website late at night in my apartment, and to have this music suddenly blare out at me at the volume I used this afternoon for a difficult-to-hear podcast! It can be a real shock and often the MUTE button is very hard to find.

  2. There’s also the issue that a lot of people just plain old don’t WANT perhaps coworkers or anyone else in their cube farm to know that they are clicking around while at work. And the closer one is to a lower-paying job or a blue-collar environment, the more this can be true (not always a predictor, but sometimes). For many people, their workplace is also a public space to some extent, and not all managers are tolerant even today or surfing non-work-related sites. In my earlier days, I simply solved the problem by shutting off my computer’s speakers.

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