Fa La La La La...Here We Go Again

09.30.09 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[28]

To quote Vince Guaraldi and the Peanuts gang, "Christmastime is Here"...well, almost.  I put an article up last week about Christmas music and had over two dozen email responses so I thought it might be good to carry the topic over to a blog to give more people an opportunity to weigh in.

Every year we work hard to bring a good variety of Christmas music to our listeners, but it is a challenge.  Years ago, Family Life Network was known as "Your Home For Christmas", because very few stations played a lot of Christmas music, comparatively speaking.  In more recent years, it's hard to tune across the dial from November through December and not find half a dozen stations playing Christmas music, many 24/7, starting as early as the end of October.  The reason most stations do it is simple; it creates a huge short-term increase in listeners and, for those stations that are commercial, a commensurate bump in fourth-quarter revenue.  However, analysis of ratings data indicates there is no residual benefit; whatever the usual format of the station, nearly 100% of the seasonal listeners disappear after Christmas and go back to whatever they listened to before.

This year once again there will be a number of new Christmas records released; Chris Tomlin has a nice project out that's basically a Christmas worship service recorded 'live'; Downhere will release their first Christmas record; Big Daddy Weave has their own full-length Christmas project out (after contributing tracks to various Christmas compilation records the last few years).  Even Bob Dylan mumbles his way through a Christmas record this year; well, it's half Christmas standards and half other stuff.

So the challenge is to bring the best mix of songs in the right proportion at the right time.  In recent years, we've bumped up the percentage of Christmas music in the weeks leading up to our 72-Hour Christmas Festival; we've played a mix of older, traditional songs and newer, non-traditional songs; and we've mixed secular artists with 'Christian' artists.  The basic formula seems to work well, but it doesn't hurt to pose a few questions and get some first-hand responses, so here we go.

1.  Do you prefer to hear more traditional songs (O Holy Night, Joy To The World, etc.) vs. more non-traditional songs (Christmas Shoes, Breath of Heaven, etc.)?  I don't mean which do you like more, but which would you rather hear more of on the air?  Or, do you prefer a mix of both? 

2.  When we play non-traditional songs from CCM artists like Casting Crowns or Jars of Clay or Jaci Velasquez, do you find them enjoyable, even if they aren't very familiar?

3.  Is playing Christmas music right after Thanksgiving too soon, if it's only every fourth song?  What about playing 2 out of 4 songs in early December?  When are you ready to hear 100% Christmas music?

4.  Almost every artist has a Christmas record in their catalog because their fans want to hear them do Silent Night or O Little Town of Bethlehem and they're perennial sellers.  If you hear a different artist sing the same song within, say, 45 minutes of each other is that too much?  Would you be o.k. with less Christmas music if it meant less repetition of certain familiar titles?

5.  Family Life includes some classic Christmas songs by secular artists:  Perry Como, Burl Ives, Josh Grobin, The Carpenters, etc.  Does that matter or do you think we should only play 'Christian' artists?

6.  What about secular songs?  We don't play secular titles like Here Comes Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, but we do play songs like I Wonder As I Wander, I'll Be Home For Christmas, The Christmas Song, etc.  Do they enhance your listening or do you think we should only play 'religious' Christmas songs?

7.  How much do you listen to Family Life during the Christmas season?  More, the same, or less than at other times of the year?

Let me know what you think; hopefully we'll have some interesting conversation on the subject.  This is not a formal survey that will determine programming outcomes, it's more an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on what we do to program at this important time of year. 


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 10.12.09 Fran M commented

I'm so glad you asked for input on the Christmas music. I've always preferred a mix of contemporary and traditional. I'm assuming CCM means contemporary christian music ? Thanksgiving is way too soon for much Christmas music. Isn't there some advent type stuff out there? We are preparing after all. And Christmas lasts until 3 Kings/Epiphany so we need to keep it going til the 6th of Jan. If you start at Thanksgiving, we're sick of it by the 25th. There are so many great songs out there that there is no reason to play the same song by a different artist within an hour or even 2. Secular artists and secular songs share the Christmas message so I see no problem playing them. For that matter, many country songs have awesome messages-I Saw God Today by George Strait is just one example. I always listen to FLN, (when my girls are home they sometimes change it to country).

on 10.01.09 Cynthia Mummert commented

1. More non traditional songs
2. I enjoy hearing the new songs very much.
3. Save most of the traditional songs til late in December. Play the new ones starting after Thanksgiving. How about more songs that focus on the 2nd Coming? That's very appropriate for Advent. Handel's Messiah brings those scriptures from Revelation and Isaiah to life. Could you play more of that?
4. Less repetiton of songs is good, and so is less Christmas music overall. Christmas has become so commercial that I find myself almst reacting negatively to traditional Christmas music because it feels "worldly" even if it has a Biblical message.
5. If it helps to catch the ear of non-believers, its fine with me.
6. I don't know if they enhance my listening, but if it's for a purpose I don't mind. However, last year I'm sure you played "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", which I really did object to, since it equates Santa Claus with God.
7. I listen about the same, unless I get tired of the Christmas music and turn on my CD player.
Thanks for asking! Blessings on you and wisdom from the Lord. Cindy Mummert

on 10.01.09 susan caperchione commented

1. a mix of both
2. Yes they are enjoyable.
3. starting to play Christmas songs after the American Thanksgiving is better than when my work starts playing them....Nov 11th after the moment of silence. I would prefer to hear it more so in December.
4. If the artists do their version of Silent Night and it isn't like the traditional way...that is ok with me even if the song is repeted every couple of hours....interspersed with non Christmas music is ok also.
5. some of the secular artists have awesome Christmas albums....so I am ok with it being played here and there. There should be more of the Christian artists though.
6. The words need to be looked at...I'll be home for Christmas...is kind of a blue mood song, separation from loved ones during Christmas and being alone. Less of that song is ok with me also. The main focus should be on Jesus.
7. I listen to the radio station about the same, no matter the time of the year.

I enjoy listening to the radio station anytime of the day when I can.

on 10.01.09 Pastor Jeff Cutting commented

In general I do enjoy the Christmas music both new and traditional. My only concern is that many christian artists have allowed the worldly influence of "Santa Claus" to be mix in their lyrics. This I feel is distracting from the message of Jesus and His gospel. I am going to continue to listen and pray that God will lead you in your decisions. God Bless.
Pastor Jeff

on 10.01.09 Becky I commented

Bring om the Christmas Music! =)
1. I love both types of music....traditional and non tradional. It would be boring with one and not the other.
2. I do find them enjoyable...they put a new twist on the songs. And it gives more songs to play.
3. For me, it is never too soon for Christmas music!!!! I look foward to it every year. What is shopping on Black Friday without Christmas music? I'm one of those people that like it when the statons start playing it earlier than that on the weekends. You play all Christmas music the last 3 days before Christmas I would like to see it earlier than that. There isn't that much Christan Christmas music playing.
4. YOu don't have to play less Christmas music to have less repition...just spread the songs out more. Example 4 people may sing Silent Night but all in different ways. So you can play them all but don't have to put them all on in the same day or one every hour....you can spread them out. There are so many songs out there that you can have lots of music and less repition. Some of the favorites like Mary Did you Know you could play more but just don't over do it.
5. I love the Classic songs too. it doesn't matter to me if you play them.
6. Secular Christmas songs are fine with me too because they are different than regular secular songs.
7. I listen to FLN the same or more during the Christmas Season. I look foward to hearing Mary did you know and other songs I hear during Christmas....

on 10.01.09 Kristi commented

I would love Christmas music throughout the year!It's all about our Savior!
1.Both kinds are great! It gives it more of a variety during the Chrismas season.
2.New songs are always good to hear.
3.The day after Thanksgiving, agreed with Becky..what is shopping on Black Friday without you guys playing Christmas music!
4.I would prefer to hear songs that are a different every hour or every 2 hours. All artists give their own spin on the song, but it does get a little repetative to hear the same song within 45 mins. to an hour.
5.The older songs are some of my favorite!I'm only 23, but I grew up listening to my mom's old records of those groups!They are always good to hear!
6.I think secular songs would be nice to play.Especially when it actually does snow outside!
7. I listen all year round, but I probably listen more to FLN rather than other stations during Christmastime b/c I like the mix. I think FLN has the best Christmas variety of any other radio station at Christmas! I always invite my friends to listen! You are my home for Christmas music!Thank you!

on 10.01.09 Pamela Carbone commented

I love Christmas Music.
1. I like both kinds - traditional and non-traditional. It gives variety and sometimes you hear your favorite artists with a new twist on an old favorite.
2. YES. It was through FLN playing Contemporary Artists that I first learned about Go Fish. I love their Christmas Song - Christmas with a Capital C.
3. NO. I love Christmas Music. I'm ready to hear 100% Christmas Music weekends in December and the week before Christmas.
4. Different Versions are good. There are so many different Christmas songs out there that a song should not have to be repeated until about 1-1 1/2 hours after.

5. Classic Christmas Songs are good.

6. I like some of the secular songs. Especially DMHO's twists on various songs. - Please keep out all references to Santa, Rudolph, etc.

7. More than other times of the year. I can put on Christmas music at work and not feel like I'm offending anyone because most people like Christmas music. You are my home for Christmas Music because I don't have to worry about lyrics that are distasteful (like Grandma got ran over by a reindeer0.

on 10.01.09 BobG commented

1. A mix keeps things refreshing.
2. Everything was new once so non-traditional is good.
3. Christmas music after Thanksgiving is great. Once every fourth song works and I like to see the number increase as we approach December. 100% Christmas starting 2 weeks before Christmas is great.
4. I like a lot opf Christmas music but I would increase the spread between the same song.
5. Hearing the "classics" by familiar artists is good.
6. Playing other songs is Ok but keep the Santa, Rudolph off.
7. Listen 50% more during the Christmas music and programming.
Thank you for the change to air my thoughts.

on 10.01.09 MaryAnn commented

I agree with the Becky above on all counts - "Bring on the Christmas music" but variety is good! One can never get too much of Christmas music as long as it honors our Christ Jesus.
Thanks and looking forward to hearing the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving and at least 2 weeks after Christmas.

on 10.01.09 Anonymous commented

I don't think you can ever have too much Christmas music. It is the celebration of Christ's birth. For some reason, some people look down on Christmas. I would love to hear more Christmas music. Variety is a wonderful thing and presents us all with different perspectives. I generally think that the same title in an hour is too much, unless maybe it is a vocal one and than an instrumental one. I don't think you need to play very much if any of the secular songs. There are more than enough of the "religious" ones to play. I am not against hearing the non Christian voices do the different songs though. I definatly listen more during the Christmas season. I am one of these people that plays Christams music, at different times, through out the year. Keep up the great work.

on 10.01.09 anonymous commented

Perhaps I am in the minority, but each year by Christmas I never want to hear Christmas music again. For me, starting this music in November is way too soon. Everywhere you go you are bombarded with some type of Christmas music, starting in late September. Non Christmas songs in November and December are a breath of fresh air for me, so I often turn off the radio for most of the day and turn on other music.

on 10.02.09 Lois commented

I really love to hear all types of Christmas music. Preferably by christian artists, but the old standards; Bing Crosby and such are alright too. I listen to this station while I am getting ready for work, and even while I am at work I leave the radio on so my house is filled with praises to Jesus. So when I get home I walk into beautiful christian music and I am looking forward to the upcoming christmas season and all the great music..Thank you so much

on 10.02.09 Mary Gibson commented

1) I prefer a balanced mix, but with a heavier emphasis on the traditional. However, please, please, please please DO NOT PLAY the "Christmas Shoes" song. It is VERY hard to hear that song and feel the joy of Christmas when a loved one has cancer! I have always turned the radio off whenever I hear the opening bars and often forget to turn it back on after the time is up. I understand the song supposedly has a good message, but it is too emotionally charged for me to handle! So, please don't play it!! :)

2) I do tend to find them good most of the time!!

3) I'm ready to hear Christmas music whenever the snow starts falling :) Ok, seriously though, starting a rotation right after Thanksgiving is a great idea! I absolutely love Christmas music, so the sooner after Thanksgiving we get to 100% the better!!

4) I'm okay with the repitition!

5) No, please play all artists (within reason...)!! The classic ones, like Bing Crosby, the Pennsylvanians, etc. are GREAT!! However, I am not a big fan of Josh Groban.

6) The way you have been doing it is great! I like how there is a variety of types of songs, but there aren't all the jingly little kid songs!

7) I listen to FLN much much more during Christmas (because I am in the listening area more) and I prefer to hear the Christmas music rather than regular programming. There is also a greater opportunity to listen to the radio when getting ready for everything around the house!

Thanks soo much for asking us!! I am always excited when the Christmas music comes on your airways :) God Bless!!

on 10.02.09 RICH Rutstein commented

Christmas music in December is fine for me. However I sincerly need praise and worship music in my life every day. Please dont take it all away. listen to FLN at work and during drive time.The message that pours from your transmitters is so important to me . I cant thank you enough for it. May God bless your ministry.

on 10.02.09 Debby Klink commented

I've always loved Christmas music, both traditional and non-traditional. The past few years, however, I have become more and more uncomfortable with the more secular type songs. I really start to miss the praise music, especially when I hear about sleigh bells, white Christmases and letting it snow. So many of us depend on FLN to keep our focus in the right place...we really don't need another distraction from Jesus-the reason for the season! Thanks for all the hard work and letting His light shine!

on 10.02.09 Laurie K commented

I love the mix of Christmas music you play. Old or new; traditional or contemporary;secular or "christian" artists alike.(Who am I to judge their hearts) If they are singing about our Savior Jesus Christ. I would like the praise and worship songs to continue each day though. I really miss them when you switch to all Christmas songs.

on 10.02.09 Jeff Smith commented

1. I prefer a mix of both traditional and non-traditional songs. I believe a variety of both would acurately meet the musical preference of such a wide spectrum of listeners.
2. Yes they are enjoyable. The familiar songs have a tendency to be over-played. Though some may not think that certain non-traditional songs are enjoyable; as Christians we should learn to break out of our comfort zone once in while and think of someone elses' enjoyment.
3. I think one out of four songs is good during the week after Thanksgiving. Weekends can be reserved for 100% Christmas songs and moving into a full program of Christmas songs a couple weeks before Christmas.
4. Because different artists make each song their own due to their style and talent; the same song played a couple times by different artists is just fine with me.
5. Traditional songs performed by secular artits should be played. I am not saying that Christian radio should be more secular, but these are the same songs and artists that many of us listened to at Christmas time growing up. What if a lost and hurting soul tuned-in to listen to a song they were familiar with, and minutes later was introduced to the loving embrace of the savior? Wouldn't it be worth a few secular artists being played to reach an audience that normally would not tune in any other time of year?
6. I think we all want to enjoy the Christmas season and the warmth that it creates in our hearts as we prepare to celebrate with family, friends, and feast; both Christian and Secular listeners alike. I believe some secular Christmas songs played on Christian radio does enhance our listening and they appeal to many of us for a positive listening experience. The whole goal of Christianity is to meet people where they are at, with the Gospel, that they might come to know Christ as their personal lord and savior. There is no better opportunity throughout the year than when they are most likely to tune-in than at Christmas time. I say let's not miss our opportunity to use the tools we possess to bring as many as we can to Christ. As much as I love to hear songs about my Lord Jesus, it is not as much about what programming I like, as it is about what pogramming others need to come to Christ.
7. I do a lot of driving locally for my job, and the radio station is always tuned in to FLN, so I listen the same amount all year.

on 10.07.09 Jason commented

Please don't torture us with all Christmas music. Love the station but find myself changing channels during the month of Holiday tunes. A mix would be fine, or just the week leading up to Christmas.

on 10.07.09 Jim commented

I like the mix of music as long as it is not talking about Santa. It is hard to explain to children why we hear about Santa and Jesus. I also would like to hear less Christmas music until it is closer to Christmas. I so much enjoy it but it seems to take away from Christmas after a few weeks.

on 10.08.09 Kathy Eldred commented

I would like to hear less Christmas music until about ten days before the day. The holidays are rough on some people and the early music just reminds people of the lonely days coming up. We should be practicing the spirit of Christmas all year, not just a couple of days a year.

on 10.08.09 Diane McElwain commented

I love the traditional Christmas music. There is so much of it. I would like to hear less of the secular songs, especially ones that don't talk about Christ. I love Breath of Heaven song! I have even heard some intrumental ones in the evenings that I like.

on 10.09.09 HUGH CONKRIGHT commented


on 10.09.09 Brian S. commented

1. I like both the traditional and non-traditional Christmas music, so a mix would be great.
2. I like non-traditional songs and with the quality of the song writers out there you never know when a new song is going to really inspire you.
3. I can and do listen to Christmas music any time of the year so bring it on. As far as I'm concerned you can throw in a song every now and then all year.
4. I think the same song by a different artist within 45 minutes to an hour is ok.
5. I like the secular artists especially the older ones like Bing Crosby or Perry Como, but I think that the Christian artist should have more air time.
6. The secular songs are ok now and then(except Barbara Streisands Jingle Bells that is just annoying), but I can hear them anywhere and really prefer the religious songs because they are not played as often anywhere else.
7. I listen to Family Life all that I can all year long. You have really helped me strengthen my walk with the Lord the past year and a half by keeping my mind on Him. Thank you for that and I know that whatever you decide to do for the Christmas season will be great.

on 10.10.09 Doug Thran commented

Really enjoy the Christmas music beginning around Thanksgiving by slowly introducing them a couple of songs per hour mixed with your great selection of non Christmas music and gradually increasing as the weeks proceed to 25 December. Too much of a good thing detracts from the message of the season. We listen to FLN for Christian programming, music and encouragement and would be lost without "our" station. Please try to immagine life without FLN and remember to support the upcoming Sharathon.

on 10.17.09 JUDY TEMPLETON commented

Mostly I prefer a combo of traditional and newer Christmas music. I think starting before Thanksgiving is too early, but playing some before then is OK. I would like to have most music beginning on Dec. 1st. When the station goes to all Christmas music, it just gets tiresome, and I love to listen to Christ centered music. I'd also like to see a larger variety of Christian artists utilized for Christmas music, ie..Sandi Patti, Gaither Vocal Band, The Easters, Hoppers, Martins, Signature Sound, and others. The station is pretty set on specific artists and we don't hear much from the others. All in all, the station is super and I listen all the time. God is truly blessed and glorified by what you all do. Thanks for your faithfulness.

on 10.19.09 Gina commented

1. While I love many non-traditional songs, I prefer the ones found in a hymnal. =)

2. Sometimes.

3. I'm already listening to Christmas music on my CD player! I'm read for 100% Christmas by the beginning of November!

4. I don't mind hearing the same tune by different artists, even if they're played close together.

5. I am not adverse to hearing secular artists as long as they are not singing an offensive song.

6. Songs like "Here comes Santa Claus" miss the true meaning of Christmas... so I'm totally fine with *not* hearing them. However, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" can be a good reminder of what Christmas should be--a time of fellowship with friends and family while we celebrate the birth of Christ.

7. I am likely to turn the radio off during the Christmas season only if there are too many traditional songs that artists have given their "own touch" to by changing the tune or rhythm.

on 10.20.09 Don C. commented

That's a lot of questions! I think you should keep doing what you're doing... Your mix of music during the holidays has always been great.

Start on Thanksgiving and run them through New Years. 100% Christmas music about 2 weeks out would be my only suggestion. 2 out of 4 or 3 out of 5 from Thanksgiving until the 100% rollout date would be great. I can never get too much..

Great blog, by the way... thanks!

on 10.21.09 Jeremie Thompson commented

1. I prefer a mix of traditional and non-traditional Christmas music.
2. The CCM artist have came out with some really awesome powerful Christmas songs over the past few years.
3. Playing Christmas music right after Thanksgiving up until Christmas is fine. I don't really have a preference of intervals in which the music is played. What I don't like is stations that either play Christmas music the week of Thanksgiving then pack away the music until the week of Christmas or stations that don't even play Christmas music until the week of Christmas.
4. Different artist singing the same title isn't a problem; it may work more as a compromise some listeners like this artist’s version of O' Holy Night and the other half likes this person’s version of O' Holy Night.
5. I think playing a few secular artists titles aren't bad, I know where I work all year round we always have a few Christian music artist titles on the playlist in our stores.
6. I have found secular titles have enhanced the listening for me, I remember listening to Sleigh Ride one morning on the way to school and I wanted to crank it up, it had me in the Christmas spirit.
7. I listen to FLN about the same during Christmas however I can probably get people to listen to the station around Christmas time that really wouldn't listen before that.