Precious Memories vs. holiday music
It is no secret why KOST (103.5 FM) turns to an all holiday music format this time of year – ratings. For more years than I can remember, KOST has become the “official” holiday station, and for as many years as I can remember, KOST has absolutely dominated the ratings period.
The question for competitors — meaning all other stations in town — is: how do you counter-program against a format that tends to earn twice, sometimes three-times the ratings of the second-place station during the season?
InsideMusicMedia.com’s Jerry Del Colliano says he has the answer. In his opinion, the best way to program against a station playing holiday music is to play … holiday music!
When I first read the headline, I thought he was crazy. Or joking. Or both. But he has his reasons:
“The enigma of why in an increasingly non-sectarian world, the holidays (including Christmas) continue to deliver huge ratings to radio stations, many of which are fighting to keep their audience from other times of the year is finally solved,” he writes. “Christmas music is (a listener’s) “precious memories”
Talking about it as Christmas music misses the point, he is saying … “reliving precious memories is what it’s all about,” he says. It is music chosen for listeners when they were young by parents,” which may cover a wide variety of music genres. “It has less to do with Christmas ands more to do with happy memories.”
So basically, KOST is helping you relive your (hopefully) happy childhood. And on this point I agree. Otherwise, how would one explain my desire to break out the Fred Warning and the Pennsylvanian’s holiday music every year? Certainly few people even my age have heard Waring’s music, but it was on a reel to reel tape my parents played every year while I was growing up.
Del Colliano says to basically fight fire with fire, if you are a station going up against a holiday music station. Play holiday music just like they do, only call it “precious memories.” Perhaps look for weaknesses in the other station’s format — such as the avoidance of religious Christmas music — and add it to yours to distinguish yourself. Get sponsors and tie them to the format. Start earlier, and run later than the other station … as late as going a week past New Year’s day, and consider easing back into the regular format rather than making an abrupt switch.
I’m not so sure I agree, at least with all of it. Certainly, if all stations went all-holiday, the push-back would be immense … Spotify, Apple Music, et al, would be ecstatic. But the problem is that other stations in town have tried paying all-holiday music over the years, and it doesn’t seem to make a dent in the ratings. So far it doesn’t seem to have ever hurt either, but when Go Country (105.1 FM) has done it, for example, the ratings stay pretty must the same … and I’m not sure it ultimately helps with the Country ratings.
The problem is that KOST is so associated with the all-holiday format that when people think of the station in town that plays it, they immediately think of KOST. I imagine one could find the weaknesses with the way KOST does it — too much Mariah Carey, for example. So if nothing else, it would take time to build a reputation for even running the format, let alone doing it differently enough to attract people away.
I also don’t think that it would be a good idea to start earlier … KOST already starts before Thanksgiving … I suppose you could start right after Halloween. Or even in July… though I think that would cause a revolt. Instead, I do agree that you could run it longer. Perhaps until most people are back at work, as Del Colliano suggests.
What would I do? I’d still play my regular format, but modify it to include those holiday favorites as format seasoning two or three times an hour, as was done in years past by many stations. Special events and contests highlighting the season, and working those “precious memories” into the regular format as mush as possible. This way I wouldn’t lose my regular listeners and be forced to rebuild after the season.
What would you do? What do you prefer? I know KOST is number one right now, but would you truly like more than one or two stations playing the holiday hits? Or would the change cause you to seek out alternatives for your normally favorite station?
Nesbert “Stix” Hopper haș been tapped to host a new program featuring the music and jazz performers he loves on Lay It on the Line, airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on KJAZ (88.1 FM). Hooper is an original member of The Jazz Crusaders, and brings an wealth of knowledge to the station that is known for keeping jazz alive in Southern California.