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Old 09-27-2011, 09:56 AM
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A Glimpse from Inside the Industry

As I’ve said many times over the years here in the Christmas radio threads, several factors figure into any radio station’s decision to switch to all Christmas. First and foremost, the switch is about ratings. Heck, anything a commercial radio station does is about ratings.

If a station has been struggling in their market ratings, Christmas music may be a way of salvaging a bad year. They have nothing to loose. Often these stations reemerge after the season with a new format.

From the other angle, a successful station may hesitate to join the all Christmas ranks for the opposite reason. They simply don’t want to break a successful format that has kept them at the top in ratings. All Christmas is a gamble. Let’s face it, not everyone is like us when it comes to all Christmas. You only have to click the links in the previous posts here to read debates from non Christmas forums about Christmas music.

Then there are few stations with a proven track record that have also managed to do well switching to all Christmas during the season. WODS in Boston, Massachusetts comes to mind. These stations have built a strong reputation with Christmas music through the years and count on their listeners to stay with them during the switch and afterward.

The switch to all Christmas is always a hot topic. Pressures and statistics within local markets determine when and if your favorite station will make the switch. Every year someone here at MMC and other Merry Network forums loudly complains that the station from last year didn’t go all Christmas this year. Some of the more savvy stations will put up a poll to gauge the minds of their listeners. Many will also host online Christmas music for the same reason. Some will go online only.

Simply put, switching to all Christmas just isn’t something that just happens. The timing of the switch and the logistics thereof is something that is studied from year to year in use for planning for the future. In fact, radio ratings and consulting companies offer seminars and packages to help stations decide.

Here’s one inside look at the radio industry’s take on holiday music.

From From Wikipedia:

Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), is a service that tracks monitored radio, television and internet airplay of songs based on the number of spins and detections.

From BDSradio’s website:

BDSradio Reveals Holiday Music Secrets

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM CDT
Webinar Registration
Join us on Wednesday October 12 at 2pm CT for “BDSradio Reveals Holiday Music Secrets.”

As the calendar turns to Fall, programmers are gearing up to unleash the full power of their Holiday music catalog to produce another winning winter book. But before you make that hot chocolate and comb through your library, attend BDSradio Reveals Holiday Music Secrets. Andrew Forsyth examines trends from previous seasons to see how top stations manage their holiday rotations to generate big ratings. With tools found exclusively in BDSradio, Forsyth analyzes shifts to holiday music, the most popular titles, stations’ library size and more.

What totally amazes me about this whole deal is that we are only talking about the same top 100 Christmas tunes (another studied and rendered bland subject) across the board. Stations that make the switch will only stick to what has been systematically ingrained into our minds as the comfort songs of Christmas. In fact, most stations will buy a nationally produced package making it possible for someone in California to listen to the exact same thing that is playing in New York. The only thing different is local breaks for commercials, etc. The best of these packages is Randy Sherwyn’s “Christmas Across The Lands”. Randy conducts and produces artist interviews and researches Christmas trivia to include in his broadcast. He’s not afraid to step outside the top 100 either!

I’m not knocking the commercial thing. Hey, it works! Even I get a sense of “It’s Christmas” the rare times I tune in during the season to a commercial radio station. The rest of the world has caught up! I’m just saying that there is just so much more Christmas music that doesn’t get its due. Why would anyone want to listen to a radio station play the same tunes contained on about five CDs in their collection? The greatest interest for me is the logistics, not listening. (Can’t ya tell?)

That’s why I always search out seasonal programming from non commercial sources like public radio and localized internet radio/podcasts. There is where one may get a glimpse of Christmas on a more local level. From chorale music to regional released Christmas music, these stations will blow all the “Official Holiday/Christmas” stations out of the water.

To illustrate this, what would your Christmas be without the Merry Podcast & Merry Christmas Radio? We have our own little corner of the Christmas music/content world of which few others even know! And all with our own flavor driven by membership! That’s a large part of the Sounds of Christmas for me!
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