10 Most Annoying Songs of Holiday Radio
Last year, nearly two dozen stations across the country switched to the all-holiday format by Nov. 9, with Atlantic City, N.J.-based WEZW 93.1 FM starting the onslaught Oct. 17. By the time the holidays hit, between 300 and 400 (out of 11,500 U.S. commercial AM and FM stations) made the holiday format switch, said Mark Fratrik, a vice president, analyst and economist with BIA/Kelsey.
This year, KYXE-FM 104.9 in Yakima, Wash., started decking the halls Oct. 10 by launching its "North Pole Radio" on a new FM signal. Listeners were weeks away from buying a token bag of Tootsie Rolls for trick-or-treaters, but this station was already selling them on Burl Ives and candy canes.
"Consider it an early CHRISTMAS present for YAKIMA!" station parent company Broadcast Partners' spokesman Ken Moultrie said in a release at the time, with the all-caps emphasis all his. "The format has proven success with a unique mix of the best contemporary and classic CHRISTMAS songs with some surprises along the way."
So maybe Yakima won't be hearing Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song this holiday season, but its radio station will probably find a huge ratings boost in its stocking anyway. All-holiday radio first caught on in 2001 after stations switched as a means of helping listeners cope with fallout of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but radio research firm Arbitron (ARB) cranked up the cheer when it went to its Personal People Meter method of ratings data collection in 2007. Arbitron's ratings team began carrying around cellphone-sized monitors that could pick up broadcasts its carriers were hearing and detect the watermark of the station playing in the background, so when a listener is at the hardware store being shoved away from the last strand of LED lights and hears Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas , it counts toward the ratings.
All that merriment is pretty effective, too. A 33-market study conducted by Arbitron in 2009 found that the average market share for radio stations that switched to the all-holiday format rose 91%. Unfortunately, the format's getting a little too efficient for its own good. According to Andrew Forsyth, a consultant for Nielsen (NLSN) , the average playlist size for all-holiday stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles shrunk from 752 songs in 2009 to 694 in 2010, while the average number of times each song was played during the holiday season rose to 33.4 from 30.5.
The folks at MediaBase, who've been tracking holiday playlists for the past few years, finally stopped doing so in 2011 after the season's Top 5 songs went unchanged and its Top 10 showed as much movement as an obese man in a chimney. Flee to Pandora (P) , Sirius (SIRI) or your Apple (AAPL) iTunes playlist all you'd like, but the 10 songs that took MediaBase out of the holiday chart business are ubiquitous. Whether they sneak up on you in a store or great you at the pump of your nearest gas station, these holiday earworms bore their way into the subconscious thousands of spins at a clip. Consider yourself warned: