Christmas 2010 isn’t shaping up to be a season of new holiday music for the young crowd, according to program directors for local radio stations.
Terry O’Donnell, who chooses the music for FLY 92.3, said normally record companies begin plugging new Christmas songs in the late fall with hopes radio stations will play them through the end of the year, but that hasn’t been the case this year.
“We don’t play a lot of Christmas music until a week or so before Christmas, and even then we’ll only do one or two an hour,” O’Donnell said. “Our demographics are 18 to 34, but we do well with the 12- to 18-year-olds too.”
The station plays top 40 songs and any holiday music by artists who are otherwise played on the station will be heard singing the seasonal tunes too, he said.
“If a big artist, like Lady Gaga, has a song, we’ll play it,” he said. “Jessica Simpson recorded, ‘Rockin Around The Christmas Tree,’ and that’s on our play list too.”
Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song” is a novelty favorite and O’Donnell said Mariah Carey has produced Christmas albums with classic holiday songs which get airtime on the station.
“We also go back to the 80s and play Wham’s “Last Christmas,” but we don’t have much that’s really up to date.
He said classics like Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” or Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” would never make the air on his station.
O’Donnell said it’s difficult to say what the average ’tween or teen is listening to beyond the radio offerings because most have iPods and other MP3 players and tastes run to the individual listeners.
FLY is sponsoring a concert at the Times Union Center on Dec. 3 that features several young artists who are heard regularly on the station.
O’Donnell said ticket sales have picked up in the past several days and parents will be accompanying the younger concertgoers.
“Train is very popular and they have a Christmas song this year, but I’m not aware of anyone else who’s put out holiday music,” he said.
The concert will feature Jesse McCartney, Robyn, Cody Simpson and JaySean as well as Train.
Some regional radio stations began playing nothing but Christmas music on Nov. 1 and the programming directors for adult listeners echoed O’Donnell that there are not many new songs this year, just new versions of the carols and hymns everyone knows.
“The most popular new songs are the old stuff,” said John Cooper, operations manager of seven radio stations owned by Clear Channel based in Albany.
He said several artists have released Christmas compilations this year, but there are very few new songs on those CDs.
“There are a few original songs, but it’s difficult to gain any traction with a Christmas song,” Cooper said.
He said the short length of time a holiday song has on play lists before the holidays is a big part of the lack of new Christmas songs hitting the charts.
“I really haven’t seen many cross my desk this year,” he said.
Tom Jacobson, operations manager for WGNA and WBZZ and the program director for WQBK agrees.
“There are about 16 popular Christmas titles that everybody does,” he said. “Each one does their own version, but if you know the words, you can sing along.”
He said Christina Aguilera’s, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” is getting heavy play this year and Sheryl Crow can be heard singing, “Run, Run Rudolf.”
“We flipped WBZZ to Christmas music on Nov. 1 and call it Santa 105.7,” he said. “We had a backlash up front for a day or two, but then people called to say it was a nice break from the election negativity.”
He said the number of listeners will pick up between Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
“It’s challenging to find a mix of music to make sure we’re not playing the same 30 or 40 songs day in and day out,” he said. “WQBK is our hardest rock station and there is not really a hole for Christmas music there. Our audience is 18- to 34-year-old males. They’re single and not interested in Christmas music unless it’s a funny parody.”
Sandler’s Hanukkah classic is among the favorites, he said.
Rock artists that produced Christmas records over the years include Bruce Springsteen, The Kinks, and The Beatles, but even those songs are now considered classics.
Darrin Scott Kibbey is the general manager and only paid employee for WVCR, 88.3 FM on the Siena College campus in Loudonville.
He said the station will feature a variety of Christmas songs from around the world in the week or two before Dec. 25.
Although his station is on a college campus, it’s programming is not the usual fare of the post-high school set.
“We are a contemporary radio station on a Catholic college campus,” he said. “We are conscious of the music we play, it is never violent or abusive, but we have a wide variety in our programming.”
He said Christmas music will include, over the course of each week, great diversity as students produce their shows with tunes by artists they like. Older volunteers feature Gospel, Spanish, Polish and Irish-oriented shows which will offer ethic music for the holidays.
“I would say our music library is robust and it has a great deal of inspirational songs that will be played, although they may not be necessarily Christmas,” he said.
Cooper said that in addition to the radio, music lovers have a great number of outlets to hear and view music today.
“You don’t have to wait for the radio to play a song for you anymore. You can even record and share your own [voice] with today’s home technology,” he said. “Just spend a little time on YouTube and the variety is unlimited.”