Music Industry

Now that we’re beyond Halloween, we have to talk about Christmas music and the role smart speakers are going to play this year.

Now that Halloween is behind us, it all about Christmas.

This is the weekend when dozens (hundreds?) of radio stations across North America will flip to all-Christmas all the time for the next two months. The strategy has been a proven and reliable ratings booster for certain types of stations (AC ones, especially) over the last couple of decades. In other words, there’s lots of money to be made in playing Christmas music 24/7 at this time of year.

Think about that for a second. How many times will you accidentally hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” between now and the end of the year? (I have access to special software that allows me to track radio airplay. As of midnight last night, it has been played exactly four times on stations across North America. Watch that number rocket upwards in the coming days.)

This is also peak time for the release of new Christmas albums, Gwen Stefani, John Legend, Pentatonix and even William Shatner have released new Yule-flavoured albums in the last week with more to come tomorrow. Why the deluge now? A couple of reasons:

(1) The aforementioned radio station format flips. If you’re playing that much Christmas music, you need a constant supply of new material.

(2) Traditionally, Christmas music is tied to physical sales. When it comes to this sort of seasonal music, people still tend to buy the CDs or the downloads. Gotta get everything in stores now so that when the buying binges start, there’s adequate inventory at Walmart.

What about streaming? Glad you asked.

Streams of Christmas playlists have been on a hockey stick trajectory for the last couple of years. And 2018 promises to be different, too, because of the arrival of smart speakers.

People who tack the usage of smart speakers–which are easily the hottest consumer electronics item right now–are very interested to see how much they’ll be used to play Christmas music in November and December. All you have to do is say “Alexa, play Christmas music” or “Hey, Google! Give me some Christmas music” and the tunes will be served up. It’s a total passive experience where the user depends entirely on the computing power behind the smart speaker.

What playlists will benefit? What artists will see a bump? Which will see a decline? It’ll be fun to watch this data roll in.

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 37893 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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