On The Dial: In a Holiday Mood

Photo by Randy Stern

We either celebrate or cringe when Christmas music is piped through the speakers of any given shopping center before Thanksgiving. Why do we react the way we do?

The music of the Holidays is part of the routine we go through in preparation for the gift-giving season. Whether it is faith-based or secular, the music of the season provides a backdrop of memories and emotions.

Let me ask you this: How do you listen to Holiday Music? More specifically, Christmas Music?

If I were to conduct a poll, I will bet you that you most likely listen to it on the radio. To qualify this, Muzak systems also count on radio airplay through some surveys. Inclusive of pre-programmed radio for businesses – Muzak being the number one in this business – is SiriusXM with their delivery of their satellite stations through business networks.

It is safe to say that everyone is getting into the act of piping Holiday Music into your ears.

It is now. December is here. The Super Moon has passed us by. Any reception of any Holiday music no longer is a call to an emotional health unit…maybe, but you get the idea. This is the new normal until December 26 – the date some countries call "Boxing Day."

How the broadcast business handles Holiday music is quite simple: Go all in or just give us a few to be festive, at least.

For example, SiriusXM provides multiple channels of Holiday Music through their radio sets, internet/mobile application, and their commercial music delivery product. You don't just get one channel because SiriusXM found out that there are many different kinds of Holiday music that fits every niche and ear. This year, there are eight different channels available through this satellite subscription service. SiriusXM subscribers start with Holly (Channel 70), Holiday Traditions (Channel 4), Navidad (internet/app only), Holiday Soul (Channel 49), Country Christmas (Channel 58), Radio Hanukkah (Channel 77), and Holiday Pops (Channel 76). Then, Channel 4 transitions to New Year's Nation on December 30.

To say that SiriusXM has your holidays covered is an understatement. But, they are not to be outdone by any measure.

The largest terrestrial radio network in the USA, iHeartRadio, has nine channels of programming through over-the-air and streaming deliveries covering more niches than you might have considered. There is a Christmas Rock station, a Club Jam Christmas station, a country, an R&B, traditional programming…even one hosted by Santa. On top of these “national” stations, 37 local stations owned by iHeartRadio have converted to an all-Christmas format for the Holidays. Included among those 37 are KOOL 108 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, KOST in Los Angeles and WNIC in Detroit.

While there are "äll-Christmas, all the time" stations, you can still hear at least one Holiday-related song an hour on every other station, channel, and stream you can imagine this time year. If you like classic Alternative music – rather, "New Wave" – there is a chance you might hear Band Aid's “Do They Know It's Christmas” once a day, every day through Christmas. It's not that's a bad or annoying song since the story behind it and the result of its recording made what the 1980s were all about. In fact, it's a good song with plenty of recognizable voices from the era.

There are times when you turn on the FM dial and Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" will play. Or, Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis," Luther Vandross' "This Christmas," Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas," and many other tracks by contemporary or classic artists. You might find yourself listening in on a live broadcast of Handel's "Messiah."

It is not a mandatory statute that the Federal Communications Commission handed over to every radio or broadcast entity to play at least a few minutes of Christmas music per hour. That would go against the Bill of Rights somehow. Or, does it? There is Freedom of Religion which enables the oft broadcast of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song" if a station chooses to. Come to think of it, didn't the Barenaked Ladies record a couple of a Hanukkah tracks in 2004? How come we haven't heard those…

It is safe to say that there will be some sort of Christmas music played on a radio through Christmas night. Whether you are driving, shopping, or just sipping some eggnog – you simply cannot ignore it. Just be a bit festive and you'll be fine. Remember, it all ends afterward…

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