10 reasons websites should not play music automatically

Published 30 Oct 2009 in Design, Music, Usability by ZigPress

I do a lot of surfing, looking for design inspiration, coding tips, or simply something to amuse me. I often start a surfing session using StumbleUpon or Wikipedia and then simply see where my interest leads me.

nomusicSometimes, even in 2009, it leads me to a website that starts playing music or talking at me as soon as its first page loads. It seems that some website creators really don’t think through what they are doing and who they are doing it for.

Are you guilty? Step into my usability courtroom and allow me to present the case for the prosecution…

1. Simply The Best

Look at the most commercially successful websites. Does Amazon play music automatically? Does Facebook? Does Ebay? Does Google? What about Yahoo, or IMDB? The answer in all cases is no. Why? Because they’ve done their research (they can afford to, after all). And their research told them it was a bad idea. Isn’t it great that you can benefit from this research without paying for it?

2. No Accounting For Taste

There is no music that all of your visitors will like. Not everyone likes Mozart, not everyone likes Metallica, and relatively few people like elevator ambient background music. For every visitor that comes to your site and thinks “cool” there will be at least one who will think “ick!” and never return.

3. Mixing It Up

A visitor might be listening to a quiet classical CD using their PC with headphones. They click to your site, which then adds a hip-hop beat to the mix at four times the volume, making their ears bleed. Hitting the back button and remembering your site name takes less time than finding your wierd-looking “stop” or “pause” button. You’ll never see that visitor again.

4. Share And Enjoy

4. Someone may be using their laptop in an open-plan office without headphones, and may have forgotten to mute the sound. Your site may be relevant to their needs, but if the music that suddenly blares out embarrasses them or annoys their colleagues (or worse still their boss), you can bet they won’t visit again or recommend you to others.

5. You’re Nicked

Are you sure you have the right to add that particular track to your website? If you didn’t compose and record it yourself, you’d better be very sure, or start putting a lot of money aside ready for when the Warner Brothers or Sony legal team comes knocking at your door.

6. We Can Multitask

With tabbed browsing, it’s often convenient to middle-click several search engine results and then flick through them. If your site is one of those results, and it starts playing music, and your visitor doesn’t want that music, they have to flick through the tabs until they work out which site is offending them. You can bet they’ll close that tab. And imagine what happens if two of the websites they clicked start playing music – a horrible cacophany that will have your visitor reaching for their browser’s “Exit” button.

7. Of Lipstick and Pigs

You may think it really gives your website that finishing touch of “pizazz”. OK, let’s turn that statement around. You’re seriously saying that your website isn’t interesting enough unless you add automatically-playing music to it? Man, you’re in trouble. Or your designer is.

8. The Science Bit

Assuming you’re still ignoring every point made so far, and you actually get a visitor who stays on your front page while music plays at them, and amazingly enough clicks a further link in your site, how do you keep the audio track from stopping and starting again? That’s right, you’ll be using a frame or iframe. Or your site is entirely Flash-based. Or both. Well done, you’ve just broken the back button and hindered the ability of search engines to find and index your site properly.

9. Money, Money, Money

Any decent length music loop, let alone a full track, will probably use up a higher proportion of your bandwidth than the rest of your site put together. Are you ready for those extra bills?

And finally…

10. Reason For Living

“But it’s a band website!” So, you know how to use a “play” button, don’t you? So do your visitors.

End rant.

Am I some kind of music-hater? No. I’m a musician and I adore music. I often have Winamp running with headphones when I’m working. See point 3 above…


  1. On 30 Oct 2009 at 11:06, Karl said:

    Really love this post :) I remember working in London 10 years ago and clients insisting that a Flash powered music player was a must. 10 years on and I find the same now happening in Malta.

    Must say it makes me chuckle

  2. On 30 Oct 2009 at 19:01, WebBanshee said:

    Totally agree with your post.Automatically played music on websites is just horrible.Same with voice statements.It gives the site a less professional feel.As you stated, you are listening to some music from your local computer and suddenly another sound hits your ears.I love music as well, but i like to select what i am listening to.

    Good post

  3. On 30 Oct 2009 at 19:19, Samsung said:

    No you’re not a music-hater. And believe me nobody likes websites with auto play music, unless they’ve just crawled from under a rock and sees the internet for the first time. That might keep them interested in the website for 5 minutes.
    I also am listening to music while browsing and sometimes websites will have advertisements that auto play, you know those annoying clips. And they are so loud they scare the poo out of you.
    But I thought no auto play music was common sense these days, right? Who else does that, except 13yo that want to impress?

  4. On 30 Oct 2009 at 20:12, ZigPress said:

    It is common sense – but common sense seems to be less common than you would hope. Automatic music has thankfully almost totally vanished from British designers’ portfolios, however in Malta (my current base) it’s still seen (heard?) far too often, usually on Flash websites built by professional agencies that should know better.

  5. On 30 Oct 2009 at 20:55, The Pest Exterminator said:

    Great post! Never thought about it this way. Honestly, the first thing I do when I enter websites with music is to look for the “turn off” button. It is annoying, they should get rid of it. seriously…

  6. On 30 Oct 2009 at 22:44, Natural Remedies said:

    Oh, I HATE websites with audio, with very few exceptions. I also hate ads with audio for many of the same reasons. Even if it draws my attention to the ad, it makes me immediately dislike the ad, so it doesn’t help them get a customer.

    Point number 6 was the big one for me. I have lots of tabs open all the time, and when one of them starts playing audio, I have to spend forever trying to figure out which one it is so I can shut it up.

    Good points, I just hope a few webmasters listen!

  7. On 30 Oct 2009 at 23:48, webstroymaster said:

    I join opinion of the author music on a site should be only on demand.

  8. On 30 Oct 2009 at 23:53, Klaus said:

    So true, so true. Somebody should create an organization against those websites, so we can get them off the interwebs :)

  9. On 31 Oct 2009 at 01:10, oyun said:

    I agree with your opinions music may take place in distracting peoples attention to other things rather than the website itself

  10. On 02 Nov 2009 at 12:26, MD5 Hash Cracker said:

    I’m surprised people still need telling this.
    Of course it’s a bad idea. If people want music, they will put their own music on!

  11. On 03 Nov 2009 at 15:03, Ready Photo Site said:

    I think that using the music on your website can be appropriate in some cases. For example if you are a wedding photographer having some romantic music on your portfolio website will create the certain mood for those interested in your services ( and will make them dream of their wedding) and that will be certainly a pleasant experience. I don’t like music on say business websites but I love when some calm melody plays on photography website and some time I even turn my music off to listen to that melody.

  12. On 03 Nov 2009 at 19:18, Milan Hotels said:

    There were a lot convincing tips in most of the 10 reasons. I truly believe that the websites today should be more moral with being very restricted to diverting the peoples mind. Well, this is one of the best posts that I have come across till now.

  13. On 04 Nov 2009 at 06:18, New York Glass said:

    Reading your article I remembered that a few years ago there was even a PayPerPlay concept where webmaster would get money per audio ad played when the user entered the site. I dont think that ever took off.

  14. On 04 Nov 2009 at 07:58, pThomas said:

    I keep my speakers off. I hate it when i go to some goofy webpage and have my speakers up loud from rocking out and then a midi tune startles the crap out of me.

  15. On 04 Nov 2009 at 10:49, Dr. Zombie said:

    Really interesting article.
    My business partner is in the process of trying to convince me to put music on the home page of our website – don’t like the idea, and was going to have to sit down and rationalize my opinion – now I don’t have to, as this article covers all my concerns and more. Thanks.

  16. On 05 Nov 2009 at 06:20, Toronto said:

    I always forget to turn down my speakers and “accidentally” visit websites/mspace pages with music. The whole office thinks I listen to death metal now.

  17. On 06 Nov 2009 at 23:14, Mathdelane said:

    Autoplay music on websites are pretty much annoying and distracting. I wonder what other nasty words I can describe it but it’s useless. Instead of making the website good, it backfires against them.

  18. On 07 Nov 2009 at 09:34, FettesPS said:

    I’ve designed a few band websites over the years, they always want their music to autoplay. I tell them no. I’ve had many other clietns request some cheezy sound when they load the site. Always tell them no. There’s no way I’ll subject myself to listening to a loud thunderbolt every time I hit F5 as I develop there site, just as there’s no way I’d subject their visitors to that.

  19. On 07 Nov 2009 at 20:29, Cluj Napoca said:

    Very good article. It is sometimes hard to explain to a customer that is not good to add music on his site. Thanks for this.

  20. On 08 Nov 2009 at 20:34, DV said:

    I tottaly agree with you. Music on a website is intrusive and sometimes just makes me to close the browser. I really enjoyed your blog. Keep Going!

  21. On 10 Nov 2009 at 17:21, Moving Companies said:

    Spot on. Music on web sites can be the worst. Especially when sites haven’t figured out how to keep the music from restarting every time you venture onto a new page. Frustrating.

  22. On 16 Nov 2009 at 22:24, Free Stuff said:

    If I come across a site with music I back up straight away. Its as bad as advertising pop ups that take over the whole page, if I wanted to listen to music I’d select a track from the 1000 + I have on my hard drive, if I search for somthing on the internet, thats all I want, just the info not that ‘extra somthing’ they think I should have.

  23. On 17 Nov 2009 at 12:41, MT said:

    Oh well said! I was looking for “documentary evidence” to confirm that I am not alone in my opinion.

  24. On 27 Nov 2009 at 10:45, online rummy said:

    I think websites that have auto play music are the worst things ever! I mean the worst are these sites that have annoying casino music – definitely does not make you feel lucky!

  25. On 09 Dec 2009 at 05:11, Mia said:

    I hate it when websites play auto music. I usually leave my earphones plugged into the side of my laptop and only have them in my ears when I need to, so I don’t usually NOTICE the music on a webpage, however it makes the webpage load slowly.

  26. On 23 Feb 2010 at 02:49, Daryl James said:

    Thanks for the rant. #11. It’s completely annoying when your visitors open your site in a new tab and music starts blaring without warning!!!! Ultimately, they will just hastily close your webpage and move on.

  27. On 22 Apr 2010 at 11:59, Reasoned Rants said:

    Great article, and some good comments that reinforce your viewpoint. It almost restores my faith in human nature :)

  28. On 28 Apr 2010 at 20:27, Kristina Weis said:

    I totally agree! Does anyone have any examples of sites that are guilty of bad auto-play audio/music?

  29. On 03 Mar 2011 at 23:18, ZigPress said:

    Here’s one: http://www.cafejubilee.com/ (a small chain of cafe-bars in Malta).

  30. On 05 Mar 2011 at 20:25, Raj said:

    Kristina, here’s another one:


  31. On 19 Apr 2011 at 01:47, psperkins said:

    Thank you for this excellent rant.
    I am still convincing clients that autoplay is always a bad idea.
    You just gave me a few more great sounding arguments.

  32. On 19 Apr 2011 at 01:48, psperkins said:

    @Wedding Photographer Italy – your player is very nice looking, I still think that autoplay should be turned off. It is a very noticeable button as it is.

  33. On 24 May 2011 at 20:31, Kenneth said:

    Sound advice! I am one of those people that already has music on when I am surfing the web, I don’t want to hear whatever music you have chosen. If it is a band then I will click to listen.

    Again great advice, thanks.

  34. On 30 May 2011 at 18:36, Robyn said:

    Exactly. Totally agree here, I have my own music on usually whilst on the computer, I don’t need yours ruining one of my favourite songs. If you are a band, have an MP3 and I will click on it when I am ready.

    Thanks for posting this.

  35. On 02 Jun 2011 at 08:45, Mia said:

    wesbites should not play music simpply because it is annoying. Better to give the users the freedom to listen when they want to.

  36. On 18 Aug 2011 at 21:24, Sam said:

    I recently commandeered my club’s website (new year, new officers), and the first thing on my mind was to exterminate the automatic music that the incumbent insisted on. Someone asked me if I was going to have any music at all, and I contemplated it merely because feedback is few its early days of being launched. Thank you, article writer, for reaffirming my resolve for a silent, efficient website.

  37. On 16 Dec 2011 at 20:50, khanh said:

    I agree with your comments

    wesbites should not play music simpply because it is annoying. Better to give the users the freedom to listen when they want to.

  38. On 29 Feb 2012 at 18:21, Hawstel Awstel said:

    I agree with this post 100%, and I’m in a freakin BAND haha.

  39. On 03 Apr 2012 at 03:18, Karen said:

    Love this rant. When I’m looking for something and stumble on a website with music blaring automatically, I leave. If it was a business, they just lost a potential customer — I’ll find another business to patronize. Unrequested music basically says “We don’t care about the convenience of you, the customer, or whatever you might have been trying to listen to [including silence] when you came to our site.” I won’t give my business to anyone who treats their customers that way.

  40. On 06 Jan 2013 at 07:36, Bruno R. said:

    Hahahaha – loved all you said and some of the ppl commenting on it as well (didn’t read them all) – and the only reason I came here is cause I went to a website that I was actually interest in their product but got a f… annoying loud techno like music right on that scare the s… out of me and I suddenly became uninterested with their product. – Why people? Why?

  41. On 10 Jan 2013 at 04:52, Frank Martz said:

    I must certaintly agree with this article. When visiting a site, and a music player is “loading,” well guess what – I leave the site! Plus, I am not a big fan of this grunge/techno music when visiting my favorite sites (about cars)! I also don’t want to hear the reving or sound of an engine running when visiting these car sites either!

  42. On 30 Jan 2013 at 11:49, Ellie said:

    I absolutely agree. It should be the readers choice whether they have music playing AND what they want to listen to. It’s likely the reader will exit the website immediately if music starts playing, especially if it isn’t clear how to turn it off.

  43. On 15 Feb 2013 at 23:18, Storage Tank Installation said:

    I completely agree with you. Really enjoyed reading this rant. I’ve been the victim of #4, especially in college when I wasn’t paying attention in class, and it’s hard to recover from that one. I think, like you inferred in #10, if you must include the music on the website, use some sort of play button, like a “listen to our theme song as you browse” kind of option.

  44. On 21 Feb 2013 at 19:54, Workers Compensation Attorney North Canton OH said:

    I love reason number 8, the actual science of it, funny that sites with music are not only hurting viewer’s ears, but are also negatively affecting their ability to be found. I don’t think most site owners realize how intricate the inner workings of links and efficiency.

  45. On 22 Feb 2013 at 20:29, Mobile Storage Containers Akron OH said:

    Number 5 is so important today, especially with some very sue happy music artists, copyright law suits are not something a website owner wants or needs to deal with in their lifetime. Not to mention if you are unlucky enough to have legal action taken, the money awarded is so disproportionate to the damage actually done by using the track.

  46. On 11 Mar 2013 at 20:37, Brad said:

    The first time you accidentally wake the baby or worse—your wife—you’ll hate auto play, too.

  47. On 14 Mar 2013 at 20:31, Los Angeles DJ Disc Jockey said:

    I’ve gone back on forth on this very topic concerning my own DJ website. I’ve had clients tell me they liked the fact that music was playing when they clicked on my site. And I’m sure there are others who didn’t like it. In the end, I decided against having it play automatically. The play button is there, like you said. That way, if the viewer opens another page on my site and plays a video or other media source they won’t have to go back and turn the initial music player off.

  48. On 15 Mar 2013 at 17:41, Heating Contractor Massillon said:

    I have the same sentiment for websites that play music in the background that I do for elevators that play music…I can’t wait to get the heck away from it.

  49. On 09 Apr 2013 at 17:12, Stevie J said:

    hehe I can’t stand when a business insists on putting a music player on their website… so tacky!

  50. On 12 Apr 2013 at 04:26, LeeAnne said:

    Almost did it….then I read this….thanks for the post!

  51. On 10 Aug 2013 at 10:24, Yahya said:

    Most webmasters also dont seem to understand that when a person is surfing the web, he/she is likely to have youtube, iTunes or even just the radio playing in the background. Its common practice.

  52. On 22 Aug 2013 at 02:48, Raoul said:

    I *hate* it when people put audio on websites — drives me nuts! And, still, I was just about to do it on a couple of mine. C’mon, the sites are for ballroom dancers — who would object to a little Benny Goodman, or Glenn Miller?? OK, I get it. No music!

  53. On 13 Sep 2013 at 16:45, Desmin said:

    Agree completely. The only time I allow clients to put music on their website is if they are a band or song artist, and even then you have to click “Play” to hear their track on the home page.

    Any other clients that want music, I strongly urge them not to with a butt load of reasons. Just because you can add it, doesn’t mean you should!

  54. On 26 Jan 2015 at 07:24, Ruyonga Dan said:

    Some cleints insist on music playing on their website. how can one go about that

  55. On 26 Mar 2015 at 19:12, alex catana said:

    Music on web sites can be the worst.instead of making the website good, it backfires against them.

  56. On 28 Jun 2015 at 11:38, Doug Johnston said:

    This sentiment extends to people who run youtube channels and the supermarkets/Hardwares/etc who play cover versions of pop music at you through a tinny mono speaker mounted up near the ceiling because some twit told them that it was good marketing strategy. And of course this has to compete with the person with the nasal problem shrieking that Billy/Betty is needed at the loading dock.

  57. On 22 May 2016 at 23:20, Joel said:

    I wanna start a few different blogs and would like to add music. But after seeing this as well as other similar statements on blogs with music, I am considering just throwing out the whole music idea. My idea was that I’d have a playlist that matches the websites style/taste but have it so that the visitor starts the playlist themselves and regulars may suggest more music of their choosing to the playlist. Thoughts?

  58. On 26 May 2016 at 07:15, ZigPress said:

    If the visitor starts the music themselves, no problem.