4. It's not "radio" you're hearing

The local broadcasters aren't the ones pumping Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime into your local California Pizza Kitchen in August. That duty falls to companies such as Los Angeles-based Prescriptive Music -- whose clients include Marriott Hotels ( MAR), The Cheesecake Factory ( CAKE) and a number of hotel, restaurant and retail chains. Chief Executive Allen Klevens explained his company's holiday strategy to Inc. magazine a few years back.

"In August, we start at approximately 20% to 25% of holiday music," he said. "Then, as it gets closer to December, we raise it up to 40%. Closer to Christmas, we raise it up to 60%. On Christmas, we're at 100%."

There are any number of companies, including Soundreef, MoodMixes and Custom Channels employing similar tactics around this time of year to help retail outlets goose customers into some early holiday spending. We hate to break this to you, but ...

3. It's working

Combine early holiday displays with the right playlist, and the customers will follow.

In radio alone, going to the all-holiday format is a great way to snare a larger audience. 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%.

Throw it into a retail setting and throw around a bit of cinnamon, however, and you have a recipe for early holiday sales. A decade-old study by researcher Eric R. Spangenberg concluded that combining the aroma of cinnamon, mulled cider or pine with holiday music puts customers in a giving mood. "Our results suggest that wise retailers can act upon this lesson by blessing their customers with synchronized sound systems and scent diffusers, and in turn receive the blessing of strong holiday sales," Spangenberg said.

2. It's not really that early

Most all-holiday radio stations hold off on the format change until November at the earliest, with even Sirius-XM ( SIRI) holding off on introducing the first of its seven holiday-themed stations until Nov. 13 last year.

Internet radio doesn't have these hangups. Pandora ( P), for example, has nearly two dozen holiday music stations available year-round. In a survey conducted by the music site last year, listeners 35 to 44 made up 94% of Pandora's holiday music channel listeners. Meanwhile, Midwest states were the stations' earliest adopters, making the switch by early November.

Spotify, meanwhile, had musicians including Ellie Goulding, Rob Thomas, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum and Fun. cobble together year-round holiday playlists. Not to be outdone, Rdio got Rolling Stone, Complex Media, The AV Club, retailer Free People and musicians Y La Bamba, DeVotchKa, The Hush Sound and No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont to contribute holiday playlists that are still up.

Listeners aren't on a radio station's clock anymore. If someone wants to hear a playlist based on Run DMC's Christmas In Hollis in September because that's when they're knocking out some early holiday shopping, that's happening.

1. Early beginning = abrupt ending

The fringe benefit of broadcasting holiday music so early is that once Christmas night is over, so is the all-holiday format.

In the earliest days of all-holiday radio, there were broadcasters that kept it going into the day after Christmas or even into January. Those daring stations are far more rare now, knowing full well they've tested the public's patience and worn out holiday music's welcome even a second after Christmas ends.

It's little consolation, we know, but it's at least a light at the end of one holly, jolly, months-long tunnel.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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