Music History

Here’s a ton of stuff you probably never knew about Christmas music

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

Despite the pandemic, we’re in full-on holiday mode now with the shopping (largely virtual), the cooking (albeit for fewer people), and the decorating (you gotta have a tree!). When we do venture out, we’re bombarded by Christmas music everywhere we go.

The ubiquity of such material may raise some questions. I’m here to answer them.

Is it just me or was Christmas music creep everywhere in 2020?

No, you’re not imagining things. Holiday-themed music began being heard earlier than usual this year, probably due to the pandemic. After enduring so much awfulness in 2020, people started pining for the cheer of Christmas sooner than usual.

As a result, Santa Claus parades, all in the virtual realm, were held a week or two earlier than normal. You might have even noticed holiday music in malls and stores as early as October in hopes of boosting revenues.

Wait. Are you saying we’re being manipulated by Christmas music into spending money?

Absolutely. Christmas music is good for business. There are countless studies that show the right music will encourage free-spending behaviours in customers.

Fine-dining restaurants, for example, have long known that playing classical music seems to encourage the purchase of more expensive bottles of wine. Down-tempo music gets people to linger and buy more cocktails.

And when it comes to shopping, playing the right music at any time of the year can subconsciously put us in a buying mode. Playing holiday music is a great way to turn browsers into purchasers.

Is this why so many radio stations flip to all-Christmas formats?

About 20 years ago, a few intrepid radio programmers wondered what would happen if their stations played nothing but holiday music for the month leading up to Christmas.

Keep reading. The bit on Mariah Carey is coming up.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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