Why Everyone Listens to Christmas Music

It’s often taken for granted but little understood. Why does everyone – and I mean virtually everyone– listen to Christmas music on the radio at this time of year?

The secular stations certainly don’t understand why. Because if they did, they wouldn’t focus on big bright Santa imagery that has more to do with Macy’s and less to do with why Christmas really matters. If they did, they wouldn’t use absurd positioning lines like “Tuscaloosa’s Official Christmas station” (follow the link and you’ll see I’m not making that up). What is an “official” Christmas station anyway? And who gets to authorize what’s official and what’s not? And besides, who cares?!

Now you and I both know why Christmas really matters, right? It has to do with the reason the season exists in the first place, naturally. But get ready for the shocker: That’s not why people listen.

Yep, you heard that right. Christ is not why everyone listens to Christmas music. He is absolutely why many people listen, of course. And He is the reason why many of your faithful listeners tune in. But He is not why all these new listeners flow into your station every December when you are playing Christmas classics.

What’s their motivation? Why do they listen?

The answer, I think, is best summed up in the video below, which is on fire right now. It was made by an amateur filmmaker with some spare pocket change. Perhaps you’ve seen it already, but if you haven’t, take a moment and watch it now:

“Love is a gift.”

That’s the name of the video and the message which is revealed as the video, like a gift itself, is unwrapped to reveal its wonders.

But, love is not A gift. Love is THE gift. 

So why do all these newcomers to your station listen at Christmas time to hear music that was recorded in their parents’ and grandparents’ day?

Because it reminds them of a magical time in their youth. A time full of the people they first loved who loved them back – people who may be gone today. A time of joy and love and tradition and togetherness. A time of giving and receiving. A time when everyone in our orbit shared at least one thing: That gift called love.

These are the feelings of Ebenezer Scrooge as he reflects on a life lived only for material things – a life where the real opportunities for love were squandered. In the climax of the best version of A Christmas Carol, 1951’s Alastair Sim version, Scrooge is a new man. He implores his nephew’s beaming bride: ”Can you forgive a pigheaded old fool, for having no eyes to see with, no ears to hear with, all these years?”

Everyone listens to Christmas music for that annual chance for redemption – to be reminded that they lived at least part of their lives a “pigheaded old fool” absent eyes and ears. They want to feel again like that kid on Christmas morning. No matter how many or how few gifts lay under the tree, one gift could always be unwrapped and yet it could never be exhausted.

That was the gift of love.

Your challenge and mine is to bring that to life for a world of listeners desperately hungry for it. It is not to “win Christmas” or “own Christmas” or be the “official” Christmas station.

It’s to help our current and potential listeners unwrap the priceless gift of love.



Mark Ramsey is president of Mark Ramsey Media, strategic research provider to many Christian music stations including K-LOVE, AIR1, KLTY/Dallas, WPOZ/Orlando, KTIS/Minneapolis, and many others. More information about his services is at http://mrmchristian.com. Sign up for FAITHBRIGHT, his weekly email of smart and actionable ideas for Christian broadcasters here: https://goo.gl/2hJMCG. Reach him at 858-485-6372 or mramsey@markramseymedia.com.

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