Broadcasting, Programming, Holiday, Guide

Holiday Music On Your Radio Station: A Complete Guide

For many people, music tends to be an essential part of the holiday season. Whether that be shopping, wrapping gifts, or decorating the tree, holiday music is usually a welcomed part of all activities during the season. After all, holiday songs do really help to get into the spirit! That being said, this time of year is a great opportunity for radio stations. Since we are getting close to the holidays, now's the time to really capitalize on the holiday music. So, keep on reading for a complete guide to playing holiday music on your station!

Given the time of year, it may be a great idea to incorporate some Christmas and holiday tunes into your radio station. Many people are interested in listening to holiday music, especially when the holidays are literally right around the corner. So, incorporating holiday tunes could increase listener satisfaction and even draw in some new fans. And, perhaps your station is "anti-Christmas" this time of year, then you can promise your listeners that you won't play anything even remotely related to Santa, snow, or bells. So, either way, whether you are for-Christmas or anti-Christmas music, it's a great idea to use this time of year to your advantage.

If you decide to move forward with incorporating holiday music, keep the following things in mind to keep your audience engaged:


What direction do you want to take your station for the next few weeks? Decide if you want to play all Christmas music or just sprinkle a few holiday tunes throughout your playlist.


What are the essential holiday songs for your station? A Beatles station may choose "War is Over" by John Lennon or "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. An oldies station could select "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby, and "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley would be essential to an Elvis station. And, "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey would be a hit for contemporary stations.

Now, you may want to have a variety of holiday songs on your station to keep your station interesting for your listeners. After all, there is a ton of Christmas music, but often times only a few songs get an overwhelming amount of play, so you can capitalize on this and bring some variety to your listeners! If this is your direction, keep in mind the tricks to making a great playlist. And, if you would like to have variety, but would still like some organization instead of random holiday songs playing one after another, consider doing hours where you feature certain artists, eras, genres, and so on.


This one mostly applies if you want to include a few holiday songs every once in awhile rather than constant Christmas. In this case, listeners want to hear a balance of genres, styles, eras, tempos, textures, etc. For example, it could go something like this: regular programming, a holiday song or two, regular programming, a festive station jingle, and back to regular programming.


Categorization (tags like holiday, Christmas, etc.) is especially important if you choose to sprinkle a few holiday songs into your regular playlists. Although titles like "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" are pretty obvious, text doesn't stand out all that well. While creating tags (categorizing), you can color-code them to visually see which songs are in your categories.


If you intend to play all Christmas music, regardless of genre, it's not a big deal to go from Jimmy Eat World's "Last Christmas" to Frank Sinatra's version of "Jingle Bells." However, if you have a country station and plan to play just a few holiday songs amongst the rest of your regular music library, it makes the most sense to pick a country Christmas song rather than Mariah Carey.

If there are a bunch of holiday tunes you enjoy but they don't fit your station's genre, consider having something like a "Christmas Hour," in which you play all different holiday songs that would otherwise sound out of place.

As a broadcaster, you should use the holiday season to your advantage. A lot of people are interested in listening to Christmas and holiday music that otherwise may not be all that interested in listening to music throughout the rest of the year. And, there is so much Christmas and holiday music out there that you can surely program a unique station that would interest listeners and become the soundtrack to their holiday season. On the other hand, if you aren't about Christmas and holiday music, you can program your station with everything but Christmas music. There are also many people out there that aren't so keen on all the holiday music, so you can be the soundtrack for them. Whatever you do, the holiday season is your friend, so get programming!

Need help picking some songs to play this holiday season? Check out ASCAP's Top 25 Holiday Songs.

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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania