At noon on the day before Thanksgiving, the switch was flipped at WKQC-FM (“K” 104.7) and out came “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams. Since then, it has played nothing but Christmas music.
WKQC has gone all-Yule as early as Halloween, but this year waited until the official start of the holiday season, which is just about right, says operations manager John Reynolds. This year the station has a near-monopoly on Christmas music in Charlotte.
Its main competitor, WLYT-FM (“Lite”), abandoned the contemporary adult format two years ago and changed to a successful hits format as WLKO-FM (“Lake” 102.9). And WRCM-FM (“New Life” 91.9), a contemporary Christian station for the last two decades that played purely Christmas music this time of year, switched to the syndicated, California-based K-Love format this week after it was sold by Columbia International University in Columbia.
Other stations dip in and out with seasonal melodies, but WKQC has made its living each year since 2003 on wall-to-wall yule tunes. Research on listener favorites determines the play list, which airs in rotation.
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Atop the North Pole hit roster are the most-played compositions: José Feliciano’s 1970 “Feliz Navidad,” “All I Want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams and “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms.
Reynolds says that listeners call and write to the station in the fall every year asking when the Christmas music will start, and often make requests. If they have the song and it has mass appeal, it’s likely that WQKC will air it.
“It’s a positive,” Reynolds says. “Christmas music is all about memories, memories as kids of Christmases past, and makes you feel good.”
Last year, as it usually does, WKQC rode to the top of the Charlotte radio rankings in December. Many listeners who spend their time elsewhere the rest of the year come to WKQC during the holidays and stay there.
Last month, for example, the WKQC ranked No. 10 among major Charlotte stations and it can be expected to be No. 1, with about a 25 percent increase in listeners, when this month’s ratings are available early next year.
An analysis last year by Nielsen showed that radio Christmas music listening peaks on Christmas Eve, when ratings surge 582 percent over any average day on stations known for their Christmas-music formats.
There’s one other tradition with Christmas music on the radio: It ends promptly on Dec. 26.
Nostalgia lasts just so long, then becomes ho-ho-hum.
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