Humbug! Christmas Tunes in October? Make it Stop.
It took me a while to get used to the concept of radio stations flipping their music format around Thanksgiving to 24/7 Christmas tunes. But I eventually understood that it was a low-risk proposition for smaller, ratings-starved stations with little to lose. In the past decade, this concept has grown in popularity across the US given that it typically provides participating stations with a modest ratings boost. For many of these stations, it is at least a temporary Band-Aid for an industry that is hemorrhaging under the weight of satellite radio and mp3s/iPods.
However, when I see radio stations – such as one locally switching to all Christmas tunes on October 19th – essentially to beat out other local stations who do the same, it got me thinking: “Is this the best that smaller radio stations can do to survive – constantly challenging each other with earlier Christmas music start dates to try to attract that small pool of consumers who actually care to listen to Yule tunes in October ... or even November?” Is this their best shot?
Maybe. Time will tell. Perhaps moving to all Christmas songs for over two months will be enough for this station to survive. If so, good for them. They have to do what they have to do. However, I find it sad that an industry that was once built on shocking the public to gain ratings is reduced to pacifying that small segment that believes every day is Christmas. What would the brass at 70s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati think of falling in line with such a non-imaginative quick fix? Where’s the turkey drop?
In their defense, these stations perhaps don’t have the time or the resources to actually think of a more creative way to stay afloat. Like every other industry, they probably do not have the luxury of spending mornings sitting around and brainstorming for the next big idea. They have a station to run and each person still employed is responsible for five different areas. So, I get it that succumbing to this format is maybe the most efficient way to make it to next year.
I guess I just lament the fact that these stations are not going down without more of a fight – without more creative flair from an industry that used shock and promotional creativity to withstand the threat of television in the mid-20th Century, and cassettes and CD at the close of the century.
If there is, indeed, one bullet left in the chamber for many of these stations, I just hate for it to be filled with tinsel, fruitcake and eggnog.
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