PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- We can argue until Christmas that it's too early for holiday music to be on the airwaves, but those complaints are starting to sound eerily like someone yelling at kids to get off his or her lawn.
We've been writing about radio's holiday creep since at least 2009 and have noticed one clear pattern in each year's coverage: Each year the songs come earlier and the volume of the complaints against them gets a little softer. At one point, we could rely on the folks at
to keep track of just how many times radio stations across the country would play a particular holiday song. In 2011, they just stopped doing it.
We can't blame them. The Top 10 never really changes and, regardless of where they place, you just know that each year Burl Ives'
Holly Jolly Christmas
, Brenda Lee's
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
, Mariah Carey's
All I Want For Christmas Is You
, Nat King Cole's
The Christmas Song
, Bobby Helms'
Jingle Bell Rock
, Andy Williams'
Most Wonderful Time of the Year
and John Lennon and Yoko Ono's
Happy Xmas/War Is Over
are going to be played 18,000 to 20,000 times on stations across the U.S. between Dec. 1-25 alone. That's more than 30 times per hour, which means a whole lot of overlap for songs of this length.
Last year, KYXE-FM 104.9 in Yakima, Wash., started decking the halls on Oct. 10 by launching its "North Pole Radio" on a new FM signal. This year, Syracuse's HOLLY-FM 95.3 and 103.9 went on the air with 24/7 Christmas music on Oct. 5.
"I went into Target, actually in August, looking for stuff for my daughter to go away for college and I look over and there's a section of Christmas stuff," station manager Sam Furco told
Newhouse Communications Center News
. "I thought of the idea if
can do it, if
can do it, if [Syracuse-area mall] Destiny USA can do it, why can't you do it on the radio?"
Why not, indeed? The entire reason Furco is hearing Christmas songs in those retail outlets so early is because radio research firm
switched 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 toy store getting shoved to the ground for the last Monster High playset to the tune of Jose Feliciano's
, it counts toward the ratings. If other stations can pick up a ratings boost this way, why not Furco's?
Does it get a bit repetitive? Yes. Andrew Forsyth, a consultant for
, says 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. Those numbers are only tightening as the years progress, but there's no need to blame these holiday-only stations just for existing.
In fact, we came up with five reasons why you should not only stop complaining about all-holiday radio, but realize that the actions of you and everyone around you make it possible:
5. You're already in the holiday spirit
The reason Furco is hearing holiday music in Target and Wal-Mart and seeing holiday items on shelves and displays is because U.S. shoppers have already begun shopping.
Consumer Surveys and the National Retail Federation, roughly 9% of all holiday shoppers started chipping away at their gift lists in September. Another 21% began playing Santa in October. That put nearly a third of all holiday shoppers in stores before November.
That's with good reason. The 2013 calendar has six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year. If you held off until November to do Christmas shopping last year and employed the same strategy this year, you're already a week behind.