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...


  1. Very interesting perspective, Daniel.

    I have found that the music that relaxes me the most doesn't have words. I wrote about Sweet Little Guitar Ditties just a short time ago, and though it is not my preferred music as far as daily listening, I am slowly beginning to enjoy soft, instrumental music in the background of my day, so to speak.

    I also think that many music therapists are so used to a standard song or a standard method that it causes the client to feel as though he or she must comply with the things that are standard for the therapist, but the truth of the matter is that during a session, standard doesn't matter. We're here for the client. They're most important!

  2. Thank you for your input Erin! I agree that as music therapists we can sometimes get in the habit of using the same relaxing music that has been successful with clients in the past. But as you say, some people prefer lyrics and some do not. Some people may also be relaxed with music that is a little more upbeat than expected. I think the best idea for using music for relaxation is to use the iso principle and try to meet the client close to where they are and then move toward more sedative music. I think that after a person practices relaxing with music they will likely move to music without lyrics since that may allow the mind to disengage and relax along with the body.

    Great comments! Thank you!

  3. people remembering what they listened to and being honest!
    Now that's asking a lot.


Subscribe by email or obtain RSS feed by clicking here:

Amazon orders originating with clicks on any Amazon product link on the site help to benefit Music Makes Sense and its ongoing contribution to the world of music and music therapy. Thank You so much!
Related Posts with Thumbnails