Sound Advice

Posted July 23, 2014, under Gosh, That's Handy!

Not long ago, we were asked by a client whether their website should have music on autoplay. Our answer was a resounding “No!” Here’s why.



Thanks to smartphones, people now have the Internet in their pockets — and boy, have they taken advantage of that! More than 50% of cellphone owners use their phone to go online. For a significant percentage of that group, cell phones are their primary Internet portal.

That means it’s important to be considerate of data usage. There are a lot of ways to do so, and one of them is not forcing visitors to your site to download or stream music that they don’t even want.


Even if people are visiting your site on a more traditional computer, you don’t know what sort of connection they’re enjoying (or not) at that moment.

A host of studies over the years have shown a rapidly decreasing willingness of people to wait on a page to load. The most recent data we could find suggests that most visitors will give a page two seconds to load before giving up and taking their eyeballs — and wallets — elsewhere.

Music players add to the “weight” of your web pages. Unless music is actually the subject of your site, they’re unnecessary.

Modern and Professional

We all have to face the hard truth that 2006 is gone and it’s not coming back.

Also the similar, much harder truth about the ’90s.

Back then, the primary social network was MySpace. It was possibly the Internet’s worst autoplay offender, because it allowed personalized profile pages, and people just had to express themselves, man.

But consider who those people were: Regular folks — a non-trivial percentage of whom were teenagers. Not graphic artists or website developers. Professionals quickly sought to distance themselves from any possibility of association with the MySpace aesthetic.

If you look at the biggest, most successful websites — such as Google, EBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc. — they do not and have never used autoplay. Professional designers — designing websites, not ads — have never thought it’s a good idea. Because it’s not a good idea.

The Wrath of the RIAA

On a different note, one usually has to have permission from a label or artist to play their music. They’re not known for offering that permission for nothing, so that would be one more cost associated with running the site.

If you haven’t got the permission, you’re at risk of legal action. The Recording Industry Association of America has sought fines to the tune of millions, from teenagers and housewives. Yes, that is insanely stupid, but illustrates that a low profile will not keep you safe.

Most Important: The Wrath of Your Visitors

Lots of people listen to music while they’re browsing or working online. Whether they’re using speakers or earphones, any interruption to or interference with their music is annoying.

Facebook’s “boopdoop” notification alert is bad enough, but what about a whole song? One that might be pretty loud, and maybe can’t be turned off? What about an ad? Would you be more or less likely to boycott the product whose autoplaying ad interrupted your Dishwalla/Len/Semisonic/Natalie Imbruglia YouTube karaoke session?

For anyone not experiencing a nostalgia fit right now: those were all ’90s one-hit wonders.

People often have many windows and tabs open. Whether they are already listening to music or not, an unwanted song ripping through one’s ears will lead to an immediate frenzy of window-shuffling, seeking out the source of the cacophony to destroy it.

Even apart from that, remember the wise words of Abraham Lincoln: “You can please some of the people some of the time; all of the people some of the time; some of the people all of the time; but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

The music you pick might sound great to you, but we guarantee some of your visitors are going to hate it.

He definitely would.

Rigney Graphics is a Pasadena graphic arts company that can help you create an impact with design and marketing solutions for print and web.