Holiday music on the radio - enjoyable or irritating?

Dec 13, 2012

It's a sign of the season -- holiday songs are flooding the local radio airwaves. But, it’s a holiday tradition that can be as irritating to some people, as it is enjoyable.

Christmas is in the air full-time for at least two central New York radio stations. Ed Levine is president of Galaxy Communications in Syracuse. It’s no wonder his two classic hits stations dive into holiday music each year.

“November 1st, that's when we switch," said Levine. "Invariably, the ratings go up."

But playing holiday music doesn’t automatically bring in more listeners. Radio listeners can be fickle, even holiday music lovers. For every song that radio listeners love, there’s a song that can actually drive listeners away.

"'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' being the epitome of an incredibly polarizing record. That one you won’t hear much on our station," said Levine.

If Larry Rosin has any say in this, you won’t hear that song at many other stations, either. Rosin is president of Edison Research, one of the country's top media research firms. His company has been asking people this year to rate holiday music. The song that drives the most people away?

"The single most disliked song was the version of "Jingle Bells" by the Singing Dogs where someone had dogs barking out the tune of Jingle Bells," Rosin said.

Most of the holiday songs that people hate the most are novelty tunes that were never supposed to be taken seriously. But not all novelty tunes are...dogs.

"'The Chipmunk Song' by Alvin and the Chipmunks..tested very well," said Rosin.

"'You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,' from the TV series -- extremely well, a very, very high-testing song."

But there is one type of holiday music you’ll hear more than ever on central New York radio this year – religious songs.

“We used to not play them until right before the holiday but we have opened it up this year because people, they want their favorite Christmas songs and some of them happen to be religious songs,” said Levine.

How badly do central New Yorkers want their holiday music? Here’s what happened when Levine’s Utica station decided not to switch over this year on November 1.

"By Nov 3rd or 4th we had gotten so many complaints about NOT having Christmas music on, that we had to switch it. I want to say we received 100 emails in the first 24 hours. And people were outraged, they started tweeting us, Facebook posts on us, it was amazing,” said Levine.

So it looks like the holiday music is here to stay. It all boils down to human nature.  

"People never get tired of hearing their favorite music. The trick is to be playing their favorite songs,” Levine said.