The Auditorium Music Test: May it Rest in Peace

Any PD who’s worked long enough in a library-based format has a few horror stories connected with an auditorium music test or “AMT.“

Maybe it’s the group of respondents walking across the hotel parking lot together. They may have been friends who’d referred one another to the field service or they’re veterans of so many research studies together that they’ve become friends.

Maybe it’s you pacing frantically from the meeting room to the parking lot … in the hope that enough respondents show up.

Maybe it’s a traffic jam or bad weather that caused a light turnout or cancellation.

Maybe it’s something more exotic, like:

  • Respondents going to a bar during the break and returning half in the bag.
  • Or a respondent who brought a 6-pack to the test.
  • Or a respondent with a seeing eye dog.
  • Or a respondent who can’t read or write.
  • Or a respondent who went into labor.
  • Or a CD or MP3 player that skipped or stuttered or just failed.
  • Or breaking news that distracted respondents or caused them to leave.
  • Or burned popcorn in the hotel bar causing an evacuation, including the meeting room where the test is being conducted.
  • Or a competing station handing out T-shirts and bumper stickers to respondents who are entering a hotel for your test.

All of those things really happened at auditorium music tests. But none of them are the worst things that happen with AMT’s. The worst things that happen with AMT’s are the things you don’t see.

  • The independent recruiter (hired by the field service hired by your research vendor) who skirts the screening questionnaire, “C’mon, you listen to WXXX an hour a day, right?”
  • Or that the sample is mainly people who happen to live near the hotel where the test is being conducted – not exactly a representation of the market.

The AMT used to be a reasonable way to test hundreds of songs using one set of respondents. There was no practical way to get a respondent to listen to 600 hooks on the phone.

But as the Internet has become ubiquitous, we think it’s smarter to use properly-screened online samples to have respondents rate AMT-sized lists of hooks using their computers or tablets or smartphones.

  • No field service shenanigans. Respondents who don’t meet the screen don’t take the test. Period.
  • No low samples because of traffic jams or bad weather or anything else. We typically overrecruit by about 20 percent so we can use only the best from our pool of perfectly-recruited respondents.
  • No moderator travel expense because there’s no moderator.
  • Respondents represent a proportional distribution around the metro.
  • No meeting to go to; respondents complete the interview when it’s convenient for them.
  • Respondents are compensated to take the interview, but you skip paying for refreshments.
  • No worries about respondents with small bladders; if they need a break, they click a button and they get an email with a link to resume where they left off.

Decades of AMT’s have left us with war stories to fill a book, but technology has rendered the methodology obsolete. The AMT: may it rest in peace.