Friday, December 18, 2009
Music Preference Mystery: Men Falling for Celine Dion!
Arbitron's new "Portable People Meter" is shaking up the music industry. Apparently more men than want to care to admit listen to soft rock radio! This may not seem earth shaking to the everyday person, but the radio industry has been hit with "shock and awe" by the new rating system that is making its way into the world of radio.
Most of us are familiar with the Nielsen rating system that is used for television. People are randomly chosen to have special taps on their television sets to track their viewing habits. The data from what people watch is turned into ratings that the television industry can use for market share statistics. Everything from bragging rights to advertising rates is based on these ratings.
For some reason, the radio industry has never changed over to a tracking system like what is used for television. Instead of real time information gained from tapping people's radios they have used a survey. The survey relied on people remembering what they listened to. It also relied on people being honest!
Both research and professional experience have taught me that music preference is an important part of effectively using music in therapy. Music that might be used for relaxation, for example, is more effective if it is music that is preferred by the client and not just music that has been identified as sedative or "relaxing." My concern after reading this latest development in the radio industry is that people may not always be willing to tell a therapist their preferred music. A client may reflexively say "classical" music because they have some idea that it may be relaxing. The news article also increases the possibility that a male client may not admit his most preferred style of music in group situations. I think that a client also may be be affected by the gender of the therapist. The client may try to provide a music preference that he or she thinks the therapist expects.
All of these situations are problematic and are not entirely surprising to therapists, but the news report provides evidence that we should be paying more attention to the phenomenon. I have to wonder if some research has already been affected by this. Has past research not been as successful when using preferred music because participants have not accurately told the researcher what they like? How can we structure future research to obtain more honest responses from people about their music preferences?
I think that it certainly makes sense for the music industry to desire more accurate statistics about what people are really listening to. I believe that music therapists and researchers will also need to strive for more accurate responses when using music preferences in their work.
The article in the New York Times is here.
...Now, where did I put that new Celine album...
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