Christmas music programming. Is it good or bad? Right or wrong? Hip or stale?

Viewed simply as a programming tactic, programming all Christmas music is about as crazy as it gets. Let’s see, your listeners come to you because you play the music they love – Chris Tomlin, Big Daddy Weave, Hercules and the Chicken Fat People.

Now you’ve decided to stop playing all the music that they love. That’s like ESPN deciding to stop carrying sports. How in the name of Bill Gaither is THAT supposed to be a good idea?

However, viewed as a programming strategy it’s a different thing altogether.


In our format the biggest barrier for growth is that new listeners don’t know the music. Since everyone’s favorite station is the station that plays their favorite music, it’s virtually impossible for someone to become a fan of your station if they don’t know the music. RISK impedes adoption.

RISK is something every business, every product, and every radio station must overcome in the Adoption process.

No one you’ve ever met has said that their favorite hamburger is from McDonalds. And yet McDonalds is the 6th most valuable brand in the world according to Forbes.

How’d that happen? It’s not because they have the best burger, but because they flawlessly deliver a consistent experience whether in Dallas, Dublin, or Dubai. (And their bathrooms are clean, thankyouverymuch!)

In other words, McDonalds has virtually eliminated RISK.

When done well Christmas music programming totally eliminates RISK for a new listener.

I’ll never forget the story told to me by my talented friend Tom Fridley. He spent a season working in the post office, where the dozens of employees went about their business of sorting the mail isolated in their cubicles listening on the headphones to their individual pop, country, rock, or AC station.

But something interesting happened when the Christmas music started. The headphones came off, and everyone in the office listened to one station – the station that played Christmas music.

“There was a time when our community was defined by our neighbors in a geographic sense. Today, our communities are based on shared interests, not shared sidewalks.” Mark Ramsey

Christmas is the largest possible “shared interest” for our format, allowing our stations to become instantly familiar as we connect to Christmas memories, shopping, decorating the tree, the local parade, the neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights, the dynamics of family get togethers, and the church Christmas pageant.

Tactically, programming all Christmas music makes no sense at all.

Strategically, it may the be the most important decision for growth that you’ll ever make.