Piped-In Christmas Music

Has the adult-contemporary or easy listening radio station in your market gone to an all-Christmas format? Do you now find yourself inexplicably drawn to the Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jose Feliciano and Nat King Cole compliation albums while shopping for windshield washer fluid at Wal-Mart? Do you find yourself asking co-workers if “they’ve heard that funny carol – Walkin’ ‘Round in Women’s Underwear“?

Well, you’re not alone. According to the Chicago Tribune, there are about 366 stations across the United States playing Christmas music around the clock. Why? Ratings and advertising dollars.

In Chicago, WLIT saw its share of all radio listeners grow from a 2.9/3.6 share earlier in the year to a stunning 9.3 during the Nov. 28 to Dec. 11 Arbitron rating period.

Once they saw holiday rating spikes like that — and a 2002 Arbitron ratings study confirmed those holiday-music surges at stations around the country — radio executives started flocking to Christmas formats like revelers to a bowl of spiked eggnog.

Now, more stations are going Christmas earlier and earlier – say, the day after Halloween – because execs think that listeners will stick with the first station to change to a seasonal theme.

In New Orleans, there’s been a format battle as the two soft-rock stations have tried to switch to all-Christmas music:

Given that New Orleans was then without a soft-rock station, WCKW switched to that format a few days later. WLMG did too. WCKW execs soon decided to go back to all-Christmas music again, and its competitor did as well — within 15 minutes.

“I think its so amusing that Santa Claus could provoke a battle like this,” says WCKW operations manager Tony Florentino. “We’re not out there doing outrageous stunts — we have a nice, tame morning show and we don’t normally get a lot of media attention.”