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Radio Stations Take Different Holiday Music Tacks

While some radio stations are turning to an all-Christmas music format in anticipation of this weekend’s celebration, some South-Central Indiana stations say they’re careful not to play too much holiday music in advance of the Dec. 25.

For years, there’s been a nod and a wink to radio formatting which said it was okay to play holiday music once all the Thanksgiving turkey had been digested.  It’s a format still in use today at Bloomington country music station WHCC, where Program Director Rick Evans said the sleigh bells are plentiful.

“We start December with just a few songs – maybe one Christmas song an hour – and as we get closer to Christmas, it’ll get closer to four an hour and then when we get to Christmas Eve, it’s all Christmas music by then,” Evans said.

But there are stations – commercial and non-commercial alike – who are rebelling against this philosophy.  At community radio station WFHB in Bloomington, music director Jim Manion doesn’t let Christmas music on the airwaves until about a week before Santa begins his rounds.

“We’ve always felt like it’s good to give the listeners a break – a place to get away from that.  Because we’re sort of a non-commercial alternative, and that makes sense because the oversaturation of Christmas music, especially very early in the season, is definitely tied to the commercialization of Christmas,” he said.

At rock station WTTS, Program Director Brad Holtz has a similar plan for how to help his station compete with all-Christmas formats, with his station playing a Christmas song just once every hour or two.

“Probably the last five years we’ve seen certain stations have adopted an all-Christmas format.  And that’s a destination for people that want to hear that all the time.  I don’t think competitively you’re going to win by offering much more than what we offer,” Holtz said.

Despite a reluctance by some stations to play Christmas music, it’s still Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” which is the best-selling piece of recorded music of all time.

Station Manager Christina Kuzmych says WFIU’s philosophy is to play holiday music across many genres starting on Dec. 1, including adding nationally-syndicated holiday programming.

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