A Caroling They Go: Some Radio Stations Can't Wait for Christmas

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 01:08 PM

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but on radios nationwide it's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

More than 150 FM music stations have already ditched regular programing this month in favor of an all-Christmas-music format, according to Inside Radio, a trade publication.

Dozens more are expected to follow suit in the next few weeks, ensuring that listeners from coast to coast will either get that fix of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole they've been craving – or go mad from repetitions of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."

The all-Christmas format has arrived steadily earlier over the past decade. In 2003, just 20 or so stations went all-Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But research shows that stations now compete to "own" the format in a given market. "It's a game of cat and mouse to see who'll go first when you have more than one station in a market," said Inside Radio senior editor Paul Heine.

Ratings are a driving factor. In 2012, all-Christmas stations saw a nine percent bump in listenership when compared with their pre-holiday programming. These stations may double or triple their ratings as a result of the format switch, said Heine. "It brings in a massive infusion of new listeners, many of those who don’t listen rest of the year."

Almost exclusively making the switch are stations that normally play adult contemporary or easy-listening music. But digital outlets are also jumping on the trend, including Pandora and Sirius XM satellite radio.

For the record, WQXR will not be switching to an all-Christmas format but the station will bring back its online Holiday Channel starting December 1.

When is the appropriate time to introduce Christmas music? Take our poll or leave a comment below.

Updated 11/21 at 3 pm

The number of Christmas music stations continues to grow, with more than 70 stations airing the format so far.  The latest to make the change is CBS Radio’s classic hits KLUV, Dallas (98.7) which picks up the format from AC sister KVIL (103.7), which had been the cluster’s all-holiday outlet in years past.  - See more at: http://www.insideradio.com/article.asp?id=2722280#.Uoz6i1OmbQM

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Comments [17]

SnowGirl from Maryland

I'm a little late after the holidays, but I like Christmas music! Spending a majority of my time in baking mode or in my car running errands, or shopping for/wrapping presents during the timeframe of pre-Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas, it makes me take a break of the same contemporary music we hear day-in, day-out. Okay, so I could use a break from Mariah Carey being played what seems like every 30 minutes, but a chance to hear the songs I grew up with, along with some current artists, I enjoy it! Our DC station, 97-1 WASH-FM starts the week before Thanksgiving and plays Christmas music until December 25th. We get an extra night from Delilah on the 26th, so that's a nice way to wrap up the holidays. Long live our simpler, more innocent times when children still delight in the wonders of Christmas and adults can reflect on that long-ago wonder and excitement (which we seem to magically reclaim no matter what our age!).

Jan. 12 2014 10:56 AM
CJ from ny

Yikes, too many Scrooges here. I love it, gets you in the holiday mood. My local station, 92.1 lite FM, started on November 9th because listeners asked for the format earlier. Since then I've listened every time I get in the car. Hey it's only once a year and if you don't like it you have the freedom to change the station. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Dec. 08 2013 08:53 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau


Resphigi(?) incorporated Tu Scendi dalle Stelle, an Italian Christmas song into an orchestral piece. Lovely. Oh Holy Night is beautiful especially when it is sung in French. Trying to find the recording of Caruso singing this. Unsuccessful.
But please no Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Ugh.
Caught Boccelli one day whilst scanning the tv singing Jingle Bells in his lachrymose(?) voice with the Muppets. Another Ugh. No I am not criticizing a blind man. I am criticizing the tenor's voice. Do we all have to love everyone without question.BORING

Dec. 02 2013 01:55 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Not only are we being bombarded with all this sugar earlier and earlier every year, we get tv offerings such as A Boyfriend for Christmas, A Dog for Christmas, Christmas in a recycling plant, etc. Very little Messiah nor do we get Amahl and the Night Visitors, a lovely opera. At least we still get some Nutcracker Ballet. There was a Thomas Kincaid Christmas a few weeks ago. Ugh. I thought I was going to get diabetes.

Dec. 01 2013 02:19 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

My favorite Christmas song is Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

Nov. 29 2013 11:24 AM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

I'm with Susan Mills (below), but it is a losing battle. I've argued on this website and in e-mails to the programming people qt QXR that the station should buck the commercial Christmas trend and (a) start later with Christmas music (after all, thee are 4 weeks of Advent and lots of music written just for that season, including lots of gorgeous "Magnificats"); (b) recognize the actual Twelve days of Christmas, which run AFTER Christmas Eve, through Twelfth Night (Jan. 5th) and Epiphany (Jan. 6th). Then there's Orthodox Christmas, which gives reason for going even farterh, but by then, because Christmas now starts in stores and radio stations shortly after Labor Day, everyone would be sick of it by then. It will never happen because this station is not imaginative enough.

Nov. 27 2013 05:32 AM
Lenny from South Fallsburg, NY

It is on Thanksgiving that Santa Claus makes his first appearance of the current season. Is that not a definitive sign, of when Christmas music should begin, over the air waves!

Nov. 24 2013 07:05 PM
Ruth Ciser from Mahwah, NJ

I love the WQXR Christmas music – it’s such a welcome change from the “pop” music we hear ad nauseum for the entire month of December (sometimes longer). The Christmas “classics” (Rudolph, Frosty, Chestnuts Roasting, etc.) are OK occasionally, but I enjoy the Sleigh Ride from Mozart’s Three German Dances far more than the commercial variety. I’ve created a play list of classical Christmas music on my IPod, thanks to the inspiration of the fine selection of holiday music you offer on WQXR.com. Please keep up the good work.

Nov. 22 2013 07:54 PM
Susan Mills from Coatepec, Ver. Mexico

Please, please, please. Don't start Christmas music until, at the earliest, a week before December 25th. Then play beautiful carols throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. I detest Christmas music that starts after Halloween and finishes on December 26th. We have twelve days to enjoy Christmas music, from Christmas Eve until January 5th. (Dates can vary depending on one's tradition.)

Nov. 21 2013 02:16 PM
Mr. Shawn from Nyack, NY

I'm OK with starting holiday music over Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend, but by "starting" I mean no more than 1 song in every 2 hours of broadcast time for the first week, and increasing incrementally each week until Christmas.

Nov. 21 2013 10:45 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

As much as I like Christmas music, I do not like when radio stations and stores start playing it even before Thanksgiving. What is even worse is that the minute Christmas Day is over, they immediately stop playing Christmas music, not realizing, or caring, that Christmas is not just one day, it is a season that runs from Christmas Day through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, and in some traditions, even several weeks beyond that.
Thank you,WQXR, for providing us with your Holiday Channel once again! I appreciate that you continued it through the "Twelve Days of Christmas" last year, and hope you will do so this year as well. The music you played was excellent, and I look forward to listening and enjoying it again!

Nov. 21 2013 10:34 AM
Rosemary Parsons from Maine

No sooner than the Sunday before Christmas, and then for the week after Christmas.
So glad you are not changing WQXR to a Christmas format. Hurrah

Nov. 21 2013 10:32 AM
kayk from Morristown, NJ

Sirius/XM replaced its '40s station with 24/7 Christmas at least 10 days ago, much to the chagrin of my 90-year-old mother. I could perhaps tolerate the Christmas music this early if it were sprinkled throughout the regular programming on any station, but all-Christmas is a bit much for almost anyone. And, so much of the secular/pop Christmas music is just plain bad ("The Christmas Shoes," anyone?).

Worst of all, when it's December 26, and people are still in the Christmas spirit (far more so than in mid-November, for sure!), you will barely be able to find a note of Christmas music on the radio. All the "all-Christmas" stations will have returned to their regular formats. Running the holiday music December 1-January 1 would make far more sense.

Nov. 21 2013 10:19 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

SARAH, Just who are "all those self proclaimed Christians'?
Christmas is a very personal experience, and we should allow even people who do not act in a Christian manner the rest of the year to improve their attitudes towards their fellow man and act in a Holiday fashion.
When I was on the Board of my local regional Food Bank what would really annoy me is all those people who would show up a week before Thanksgiving with frozen turkeys to donate. Where are they I would ask the rest of the year, until one of my co Board members reminded me that even though some people only show compassion during the Thanksgiving Christmas season we should be thankful that they do so at that time as so many more just speak about giving and compassion, and do nothing to help those in need at all regardless of the season.
Instead of giving a turkey each year, my son, son in law and I go hunting and give our limit of deer to the food bank every season and believe me a full grown deer properly dressed will go a long way to fill an otherwise empty freezer.
Even though it is hard for me to walk, I still push through these annual hunts with my rifle in one hand and a cane in the other, so I can help others, and later listen to traditional Christmas music as much as possible. Christmas does not have to be totally commercial, although I am sure many retailers play Christmas music to motivate the casual shopper to buy more than they can afford.
Music has frequently been used to motivate people, armies used it before marching into battle, and it has been used to overthrow governments,it is just a shame that traditional music designed for Church settings is now used to expand corporate profits and increase retail sales. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Nov. 21 2013 10:01 AM
SARAH from Philly

One thing I do agree with is stores who have Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas stuff out at one time are short sighted & will lose future sales because as adults young people today won't have sentimental memories of the holidays which makes us all buy as adults. & for those whose culture doesn't include Christmas, I guess Dec is a drag. The good think about "classical" Christmas music is that if it is sung it's usually not in a language I understand.

With tens of millions of people with financial problems I think Christmas music is a little bit of cheer at a very trying time.

It is said that these days people associate Thanksgiving & Christmas was commercialism & intra-family rivalry. Yes that includes all those self-proclaimed Christians. Maybe this Christmas people should start asking themselves how to institute a sense of community & sincere charity. People then should spend New Years day not thinking of personal resolution but ideas on how to make their communities a place of people and not houses & apartment buildings.

Other than that how can you ever get to much CHRISTMAS MUSIC. It's like saying you can get too much love.

Nov. 21 2013 01:18 AM
The Truth from Les

It's gotten out of hand - every store I enter is playing Christmas music now. Enough!!!!!

Nov. 20 2013 09:22 PM
Linda from New Jersey

I love Christmas music of all types (well, maybe not some of the total pop stuff) and thoroughly enjoy the many classical offerings available, but I really want to treasure the season of Thanksgiving which is now being lost in our society. I believe Christmas music belongs at the earliest in Advent, not before Halloween.

Nov. 20 2013 04:26 PM

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