It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Christian pop station 104.7/The Fish brought in Montell Jordan to play a Christmas mix of his song “Shake Heaven” at 7:45 a.m. this morning to launch its annual all-Christmas music format. This is about the same time it made the switch the past two years.
In 2009, the first song was Matthew West’s “Give This Christmas Away” with Amy Grant. Last year, it was Amy Grant’s “Jingle Bells.”
Over the next 32 days, the station will play more than 9,000 Christmas songs, a mix of secular and religious, from “Sleigh Ride” and “White Christmas” to “What Child is This?” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” And some of the same songs will be played by at least four different artists. Last year, the station spun versions of “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeremy Camp, Third Day, Martina McBride, Casting Crowns and Rush of Fools.
A year ago, the station kept the format rather tight, with 170 songs, some aired as many as five times a day, according to Mediabase 24/7. The oldest song: the Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas” from 1942. Most popular artist: Amy Grant (11 different cuts) Most played: “Angels We Have Heard On High” by Third Day.
And while stations are generally reluctant to try out brand new Christmas songs, Fish did roll out a couple last year, including Matthew West’s “One Last Christmas.” and TobyMac’s “Christmas This Year.”
This is the tenth year Fish has gone to an all-Christmas format, though a former soft rock station 94.9/Peach (late Lite) launched the concept in Atlanta back in 2000 before changing format to country in the middle of Christmas season in 2006.
Since 2004, B98.5 has opted to go full-on Christmas during the holidays, with huge ratings impact. On schedule, as it has the past two years, four hours after the Fish, the station switched to Christmas today at noon with the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” followed by Tony Bennett’s “My Favorite Things” and Christina Aguilera’s “The Christmas Song.”
The station’s playlist last year was of comparable length to that of the Fish, according to Mediabase 24/7. It had about 160 songs in rotation, not counting the evening syndicated show Delilah, which played many more. Its song selection was more conservative than that of the Fish and heavily secular. Last year, it played only one cut in its regular rotation that had been released after 2004: Mariah Carey’s live version of “O Holy Night” from 2010.
Last year, the pop station spun:
11 different versions of “Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” (including Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr. and Aaron Neville)
11 of “Winter Wonderland” (including Eurythmics, Tony Bennett and Englebert Humperdinck)
10 of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (including the Carpenters, the Pretenders and Whitney Houston)
10 of “The Christmas Song” (including Michael Buble, 98 Degrees and Gloria Estefan)
10 of “Sleigh Ride” (including Air Supply, the Ronettes and Boston Pops Orchestra).
Will the playlist change much this year? Yes. Already in the first hour, the station has played several Christmas cuts it did not do so last year, including Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas Baby,” the Carpenters’ “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” John Mellencamp’s “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus” and Boyz II Men’s “Let it Snow.”
Lee Cagle, the program director, said the playlist hadn’t been freshened in years so he switched out quite a bit of music, while keeping classics such as “Feliz Navidad” that cannot possibly be deleted. Sure, it’s many of the same songs we hear each year but the station is mixing up the artists compared to 2010.
Sirius/XM has been playing all Christmas earlier this month on its Love channel, which focuses on more recent artists as well as a separate channel with classic singers and acts. And if you were at many malls, you could hear Christmas music as early as Nov. 1.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk