More on the Christmas Creep or why I love all-Christmas Radio

In my last piece, I used the musical Fiddler on the Roof, and the challenges of its lead protagonist Tevye the Milkman in upholding and honoring the tradition of his people (Jewish in heritage and in faith) within the Russian community that Tevye and his family live in.  The daughters in his life challenge the traditions personally, but overall, it’s the Russians especially the Tzars that challenge the traditions of the whole Jewish community and basically run them out of the country.  Yes, traditions were challenged and somewhat altered…but Tevye held firm in the end…even if he had to go to the United States (well that was his choice but they could not stay in Russia).

Now in this piece I will talk about why I welcome the Christmas creep, especially when it comes to the all-Christmas format on the radio.  One of the first major FM stations in America to do an all-Christmas format is KESZ (99.9 KEZ) in Phoenix, Arizona.  The first time and year that KESZ did such a format and go back to its year around format of Adult Contemporary is 1996.  Clear Channel Communications (which was the original name of iHeart Media) acquired KESZ in 1999 and allowed them to continue to go all Xmas during the holiday season.  Now in those years KESZ did not flip to Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  Other stations that broadcast an AC format for the most part began to follow suit, but the format really took off after the tragic incident of 9/11 in September 2001.  The Xmas format began something to boost the morale of the American people.  Clear Channel/iHeart Media lead the charge but other radio companies big and small also came on board the Christmas radio format train and many saw great results of doing an all-Christmas music format on the radio.  Now KESZ was not really the first station to do all Christmas but they are the station that would make the format itself successful and popular…even if you can only do for 40+ days a year give or take.

Speaking of 40+ there is a group of vocal people who are demanding to hold off on the music until after Thanksgiving.  If the KESZ’s of the world actually went Xmas early before Turkey Day in the late 1990’s, I might have very well sided with them, but in this day in age, I side with the Christmas creep, and here is why as far as radio goes.
There is something called demographics that is used in radio, along with programing towards a lifestyle as well as gender/sex.  Adult Contemporary radio (aka AC) is a format that appeals to a 25 to 54 female with a woman aged around 30-45 as the core audience.  Back in the 1980’s AC radio played a mix of currents that were somewhat mellow and basically the office work and lifestyle of the typical Baby Boomer without the need to putting with I what I call the “hall of strings” which is the hallmark of the Beautiful Music/Easy Listening format which was in decline during the 1980’s.  They wanted the softer songs but from the artists that made them a hit…not from Percy Faith or Mantovani.  Other AC stations were upbeat and not as soft as their competition but still mellow enough for the office.  The more upbeat stations played mote 1960’s and 70’s gold titles (the upbeat ones) that complemented their format as well. 

By the late 2000’s the Boomers were aging out of the demo, and Mainstream AC radio was at a crossroads.  Hot AC officially established their surveys in the mid 1990’s and officially spun off from the Mainstream AC format.  Stations that were able to stick to the 25-54 demo were able to succeed and continue to move forward with the format…but here is what that means.  It means you focus a woman that grew up in the 1980’s that was really into Madonna, Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul, even The New Kids on the Block (or NKOTB) instead of the Beatles or Elton John.  That means the 1980’s becomes the core gold with lots of Madonna’s hottest hits when she was young and hot along with Michael Jackson’s biggest hits from Thriller (Billie Jean, PYT, and Wanna Be Startin Something), and Bad (Man In The Mirror and The Way You Make Me Feel).  It also means that the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran that appeal to a young female teen and/or college aged also more than not appeals to their MOTHER.  I never was really a big Madonna fan or into Paula Abdul. 

I was more into MJ and Janet back in the day, but I also did like certain titles that were popular on 1980’s AC radio.  I do like certain classic hits from the 1980's but I perfer the 1970's myself.  Now AC radio does make money, but it’s the gold titles that have the longevity, not songs that were hits with only the then adult Boomers.  Now certain songs that did start out as AC hits did crossover and appealed to teens of the day.  The one song that did this and is still popular today is Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder.  While that would be his only hit (not counting The Kid’s American which managed to crack the Top 40 before dropping soon after), he was able to stay active in the business by producing No Doubt’s best selling album Tragic Kingdom and songs he wrote for the Walt Disney movie Mulan coupled with producing the pop music version of Reflection which gave Christiana Aguilera her big break…and her big hits also work for today’s AC format.  Face it, my musical tastes just don’t gel with women in my peer group and younger.  I’ll go Classical just like my mother if I must…but I don’t want to listen to that for hours…I have gotten into Jazz however.

I don’t like Madonna, I don’t Katy Perry, I never linked P!nk, I don’t like Lady Gaga’s pop stuff (Gaga is a classicaly trained musican), nor the pop from Aguilera (in spite of her voice) and that is why AC radio is not for me or my gender/sex.  Heck I did not like Celine Dion like the boomers did, but I would take her back in a heartbeat.  Not the greatest voice, but still a classic lady as a singer and performer. 

The all-Christmas format that takes the place of AC radio (for the most part) for those 40+ days brings a little class back to the radio.  Since you only care for Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Percy Faith, Tony Bennett, around Xmas time…well it works and I like it.  Hey they make room for younger artists too, Michael Bublé and Josh Groban are among the young that have joined the fold like it or not, and Mariah Carey who is older than those two young men has earned the title Queen of Christmas.  It seems that the Christmas season fits her well than trying to go ghetto as she did in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  At this rate, Kelly Clarkson will be joining this group as well.

So, you see with the crass over the class year around, I tend to favor going Christmas before Thanksgiving in this day and age.  We don’t ignore Thanksgiving either, but we can, should, and just need a little Christmas before Thanksgiving…that’s all.  In this day and age, I need it for sure.

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