By: Juan Cavillo
Los Angeles radio stations are playing Christmas music earlier every year and it has become bothersome. Christmas music during the holidays can be comforting and, from personal experience, heartwarming. The idea is to hit the perfect spot when to have it playing.
Too early and people can get fed up. This year, however, anyone who turned on KOST 103.5 the day after the elections was greeted with the sounds of jingle bells and holiday-appropriate music.
Nov. 5 marked the beginning of Christmas music in Los Angeles. Playing this music during the holidays is a ratings hit for any station that participates.
Stations like KOST 103.5, the adult contemporary music station, and KKGO, a country station, make dramatic shifts in listener ship during the holidays.
As far back as 2011, The Hollywood Reporter said that KOST 103.5 went from a 4.6 to a 9.2 on the Arbitron ratings system. Ratings and economically it makes sense to have Christmas music playing earlier every year.
The problem comes when Christmas music makes a person lose focus or simply get bummed out by the constant happy-go-lucky sounds that make it up.
Psychologists, in an 2017 NBC article, said employees in stores that play Christmas music on loop tend to have to actively work at ignoring the music. Imagine how grueling this is for employees when music starts earlier every year.
Leo Quinones, talk show host on various LA radio stations, said there were plenty of people who were excited for the return of Christmas music.
He named his own partner and friends among those that waited for the music to start.
“This year it’s been earlier. I mean the want and the need for it. Because 2020 is such a train wreck that people want to feel good. And with the impending closures of the COVID-19, I mean people are going to want to get together but the smart people are not gonna get together,” Quinones said.
The need to feel happier is something almost all people can attest to wanting. Yet there are those who feel sad during the holidays and Christmas music is just not enough to help them through it. Not only that but often during the holidays it’s this same Christmas music that causes flare ups in depression.
Jennifer Buchanan, a music therapist and clinician, said that music can trigger things in a person. This is much like the idea of a scent or sound reminding an individual of a traumatic, happy, or simply distressing event. Having Christmas music running all day on different radio stations can be a pain.
Quinones said that the origins of LA Christmas music date back to the late 1999-2000 holiday season and general manager of eight Los Angeles based radio stations, Roy Laughlin. The idea was to have stations playing holiday music much like Laughlin had stations in Texas play when he worked in that radio market.
Listening to the radio is not something that has disappeared, no matter how many podcasts and streaming services have been created. So the idea that it’s possible to simply avoid Christmas music is a bit hard to swallow.
Parents, friends, loved ones, teachers, the little old lady that sits outside her house blasting her radio, all these people may love and listen to Christmas music.
If radio stations would simply stick to a more focused time frame they would be doing everyone a big favor.
2020 has been a stressful year and it only makes sense for stations to play music earlier than most years to help lift spirits among listeners.
Yet radio stations have forgotten that the reason Christmas music is so captivating and special is because it is meant for that specific holiday season, not the entire holiday season.