NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- If holiday radio is on 24 hours a day for more than a month, why does its playlist feel like it has fewer songs than December has days until Christmas?
Perhaps it's because, despite having hundreds of songs at their disposal, 24-hour holiday radio programmers spun the Top 23 songs between 10,238 times (Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas) and 19,600 times (Burl Ives' Have A Holly Jolly Christmas) last year, according to Mediabase. The newest song to crack that list is Josh Groban's rendition of Oh Holy Night from 2002 (played 12,659 times last year) and the last "new" song to crack the Top 10 was Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, which was played 19,600 times last year but debuted 17 years ago.
It only feels like listeners are hearing the same holiday songs repeatedly because they are -- and a lot more often than they were only two years ago. According to Andrew Forsyth, a consultant for Nielsen (NLSN) BDSRadio, 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, while the average number of times each song was played during the holiday season rose to 33.4 from 30.5.
Sean Ross, executive editor or music and programming for Radio-Info.com, notes that of those fewer than 700 songs, only 120 account for more than 70% of the airplay. The heaviest hitters -- including Ives, Carrey, Cole, Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree (19,406 plays last year) and Andy Williams' Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (18,459 plays) -- are played as much as five times a day on some stations. Ross says the playlists are not only tightening, but placing added emphasis on standards and soft, traditional songs."Only a few novelties like
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