Fresh From The Vault: When Is Streaming Christmas Music Ok?

21 Nov 2022

Fresh From The Vault: When Is Streaming Christmas Music Ok?

A photo of the APM Fresh from the Vault franchise and The Christmas Aldum art from Nightingale Music Special Edition

One of the all-time arguments among music listeners is related to Christmas: When is the proper time to stream Christmas music? A small subset of people think it's cheery and sentimental enough to merit year-round listening, while others (rightly) think this is sacrilege. Some listeners have strict rules about when and where streaming Christmas music makes sense, and a handful of others don't want to hear music about Christmas at all. Most of us probably agree that some amount of winter holiday music has a time and a place and that the seasonal listening begins somewhere around the beginning of autumn and ends sometime directly after the New Year's ball drops. But within these parameters, there's a whole lot of room for quibbling.

A vast bulk of American listening happens on streaming services, it's easier to look at the numbers for some backup. Realistically, starting up cold weather playlists right after Thanksgiving and listening through the first week of January is probably the most common framework. Statistics show that Christmas music streams gradually rise from 1% in November, to 5% Thanksgiving weekend, and finally, max out at 22% on Christmas day. The gap between 5% and 22% is pretty large, so we can assume that the bulk of seasonal listeners are shifting gears in December. However, streams don't show everything since vinyl lovers, and even cassette tapes full of old favorites can be analog staples for Christmas music collections. 

The overall trend makes it clear — most people swap their music out when the holidays hit, and that means hearing Yuletide choruses in commercials, TV shows, and movies during the winter is also expected. Since Christmas music can cause such friction among listeners, access to a whole host of winter holiday playlists is essential for any holiday-themed projects. From traditional hymns and caroler classics, to the more neutral, upbeat palette of Christmas jazz, all the way through Christmas rock and more recent additions like holiday pop and EDM, there are just about as many kinds of Christmas music as there are musical genres themselves itself. Finding the right balance remains key. Music publishers like APM do best when they make a vast array of trends and traditions available for all kinds of projects.

And for those who don't celebrate Christmas themselves, there are still seasonal options that celebrate the time of year without that holiday's specific focus on the birth of Christ. These days, Hanukkah celebrations are much more visible in the mainstream, and tunes that delve into the joys of dashing through the snow or gathering with family don't need to be tied to one religious holiday. Since Thanksgiving tends to be a mile marker for the crowd who only listens to the stuff seasonally, it's also sometimes necessary to have music set aside for that holiday, too. And as with most holidays, the need for music that signifies a certain time of year needs to be available all year round, not just during the few-month spike, as creatives are often working on projects far in advance of seasonal deadlines. 

Something like APM's Christmas rock playlist is suitable for those looking for gems that bring to mind Bruce Springsteen's holiday songs, and the growing prominence of a hip-hop Christmas canon points the way for progress within the holiday music canon. Songs that hone in on traditional instruments and archival/vintage tracks are where a lot of people will find the stuff they need for holiday-related content, while the Christmas stylings playlist contains tangential tracks that might work for anything having to do with the winter holiday season.

Though using music from divas like Mariah Carey is generally out of budget for most people, APM also offers a selection of soul and R&B tracks that get close to staying power the of "All I Want For Christmas Is You"—which is repeatedly billed as the most popular Christmas song of all time. Kitsch, orchestra and brass, and minimal holiday music are all additional categories that APM offers for holiday soundtrack needs, along with New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah-themed playlists. 

The best approach for most listeners and programmers still seems to center a mix of Christmas rock or contemporary classics, historical carols and hymns, and a good dose of contemporary favorites. Just make sure you don't try to trot out any of this seasonal stuff too early, or listeners and audiences might rebel. You can't jump the gun with something as notoriously tricky as the Christmas spirit.

This week's edition of APM Fresh from the Vault features The Nightingale Collection Special Edition Christmas Album Volume 3. This 3rd installment of our popular album is a popular choice amongst music supervisors who want to capture the holiday spirit in various genres. Notable tracks include the remixed version of God Rest Ye,  the original pop song Christmas Kiss, and the moving choir version of O Come All Ye Faithful. Check it out.

Why APM Music?

APM is the world's largest, deepest, and broadest music collection with over 1,000,000 tracks from 160 of the industry's most diverse, respected, and admired libraries, including the legendary British library, KPM. It is also home to the best music directors in the industry today. They offer their expertise to clients in search of the perfect music for their projects.

"APM is one of my most important resources. Especially their authentic vintage catalog, which is eclectic and spectacularly weird. (We've used 'Funky Fanfare' by Keith Mansfield a few times in Quentin's films). I love sifting through their website and listening to the selections." - Mary Ramos, Music Supervisor (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Wu-Tang: An American Saga)