It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, every where you tune …

Less than two months ago, I blogged that Christmas (music) would be on the radio before you know it.  Thanksgiving is still a week away; but, already dozens of stations have made the switch to Holiday formats including head-to-head battles in markets from St. Louis to Ft. Wayne.  The reasons are definitely compelling:  Persons 25-54 AQH Ratings were 91% higher in 32 PPM markets last Holiday survey, including some heritage brands like B101/Philadelphia and KSFI/Salt Lake City pulling more than 1/3rd of all listeners in that demo.  All the numbers can be found in the August 2010 PPM Client Briefing published by Arbitron©.  Of course, there are risks involved with strategies to flip too soon versus the chance someone else beats you to the punch.  The key is to be ready to go at a moment’s notice as soon as you feel it’s the right timing (unless you’re fortunate to own the Christmas position in your market from doing it successfully over the years) … Stations in Cincinnati, Lafayette, Albany, Syracuse, Kansas City, and Grand Rapids all made the switch on November 1 this year!

Tom Taylor’s newsletter, TRI – Taylor on Radio Info, has been publishing tips for competing against Holiday Formats – sign up for his newsletter here.  Some of the highlights:

  • Mike McVay says “If you’re a listener, you know what the all-Christmas station is doing, and you know exactly how long they’ll be doing it.  That creates the safety of knowing that you can tune away and then come back when you’re able to do so” – adapting the Trout & Reis description of “the weakness inside the strength.”  McVay suggests competitors make as much noise as possible to bring the listener back to your non-Christmas brand through contesting, stunts, great guests, et cetra.
  • Bob Glance advises his Country clients to use Holiday-themed imaging as much as possible and to own the months not influenced by the Christmas survey (good advice for all formats affected by Christmas competitors, usually in the AC arena).
  • Guy Zapoleon points out the obvious saying “minimize the damage by being the very best version of your format brand you can be …” while pointing out the value of Christmas imaging/promotions.
  • Tony Gray admits the Urban world is also hurt by Christmas stations, either by P1s who enjoy the Holiday music or work in offices that insist Christmas stations are played.  In his opinion, it’s difficult for Urban brands to go all-Christmas but joins the others who value Christmas imaging/promotions while recommending Urban formats not exceed 40% or 50% Christmas music during the period.
  • Dan Vallie says “This is the easiest time of the year to be topical and relatable, even if you don’t play all-Christmas music.”  It’s all about production, air talent coaching, imaging, and giveaways.  And, don’t forget about Thanksgiving – which should be your focus during the coming week.
  • Garry Wall brings the “Jack-fm” perspective to the table with Kansas City’s “Save Thanksgiving” promotion.
  • Alan Burns takes a “just the right amount of Christmas music” position with some of his client stations who compete against Christmas formats – two or three songs an hour, increasing the closer to Christmas we get – dependent upon the brand’s life stage and competitive situation.  He sees this as a potential opportunity for brands to strengthen their music image while a competitor is “out of format” at least six weeks.
  • Joel Folger believes “new cume is rarely converted to long-term fans of the normal format; end result, holiday gains are usually followed by larger post holiday losses.” 
  • Fred Jacobs comes very close to conceding defeat for Classic Rock stations boldly stating “You’re not going to beat the Christmas music stations at what they’ve become famous for: wall-to-wall tinsel and that misteltoe vibe …”  He suggests getting your biggest and best ideas on the air before Black Friday, then plan for next year.
  • Chuck Gieger believes it’s okay for Country stations to play non-Country holiday songs in December with heavy traditional imaging from Military families, community leaders, celebrities, and core artists.

I read that Star 100.7 Pittsburgh is taking a “bah humbug” approach that it’s too early for Christmas music.  Personally, I think this could be a dangerous position given the popularity of the format with their listeners … but, I have not heard the imaging yet, and it could be a fun presentation until we get closer to December 25th.  Instead, consider offering listeners an all-Christmas holiday format with your brand’s imaging as an internet only stream.  If you have a cluster mate going all-Christmas, this is a tremendous opportunity to create synergy through cross platform marketing.

Share your ideas to compete against The Christmas Station, successes you’ve seen in the format, or thoughts on Arbitron’s “Holiday Book” in the comments below.



  1. Follow Up: Christmas Format Success 2010 « Scott Sands Media LLC - January 27, 2011

    […] It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, every where you tune … […]

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