Do we have to rock around the Xmas tree so soon?

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The Oakland Press - On The Radio, November 12 2004


By: Mike Austerman

Is anyone besides me not happy with the newest radio war in town?

Both soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) and WMGC-FM (105.1) have ditched their regular format in favor of nonstop Christmas music - a full three weeks before Thanksgiving!

When WNIC made public its plans to make the switch earlier this fall, it seemed inevitable that WMGC would do something to prevent its rival down the dial from owning the Christmas music market as it did last year. And when WNIC went "all-Yule all the time" last Friday, WMGC quickly followed suit.

Both stations were promoting an all-Christmas weekend, but when Monday came, neither station went back to nonseasonal music, instead preferring to see if they could make the other blink in the bizarre barrage of "White Christmas," "Silver Bells" and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

It's just not right to be hearing about Jack Frost nipping at my nose seven days a week long before the Thanksgiving turkey has been carved. I can understand the appeal of special Christmas weekends in November when people are out starting their shopping.

But expecting those same people to be happy hearing about Rudolph's red nose for seven weeks while they are at work is just too much. Though I'm all for the Christmas spirit, when radio stations exploit the holiday in this manner as they attempt to one-up each other, it's anything but the Christmas spirit at work.

I'd like to know how you feel about the early appearance of Christmas. E-mail your thoughts to me at ontheradio@austerman. com.

In more seasonally appropriate news, news-talk WJR-AM (760) will again be the radio voice of America's Thanksgiving Day Parade, providing live coverage from 6 a.m. till noon. Pre-parade information and interviews will run until 10 a.m. when morning host Paul W. Smith will provide float-by-float coverage of the parade itself.

You also can join WJR's Ann Delisi for a unique opportunity to ride your motorcycle in the parade's Harley Brigade. For more info, call (734) 947-4647 or visit

Christian WMUZ-FM (103.5) is searching for a new morning show with last week's departure of long time host Sean Harriott, who left to take on morning duties for Relevant Radio, a Catholic talk network with 24 stations across the country.

Meanwhile, WMUZ operations manager Steve Dealy is getting out of bed early to handle the morning shift until a permanent replacement is identified.

Microsoft is now offering another option to your regular radio station. Point your Web browser to and you'll find a listing of more than 1,000 "local" radio stations that supposedly feature playlists based on the songs played by regular radio.

MSN's service lists 13 audio streams for Detroit, but I suspect the computerized service isn't really watching all that closely. How else can you explain that the stream based on WMGC isn't playing - ugh - Christmas music?

While MSN's service features fewer commercials, you'll also miss out on local content such as DJ's, weather and traffic. By adding the listings that resemble your local radio dial, MSN is trying to cash in on the name recognition of local stations to market what is essentially just another Web streaming service.

Set your dials: Brian Auger's 40-year-plus music career has featured forays into jazz, early British pop, R&B, soul and rock, winning him legions of fans all over the world. Auger and his band make a rare radio station visit 9-11 a.m. today when they appear on the Judy Adams program on public radio WDET-FM (101.9).

Auger also appears at 9 tonight at the Tenny Street Roadhouse in Dearborn. Tickets are $15; visit

Mike Austerman is the founder of



Readers: It's a little early for holiday tunes on radio

Is it too early for Christmas music? Readers of the Daily Oakland Press think so. In Friday's Marquee section, readers were asked about the Nov. 5 start to the Christmas season on local soft rock radio stations WNIC-FM (100.3) and WMGC-FM (105.1).

That unscientific query resulted in a flurry of responses, and overwhelmingly - by about a 12-1 margin - readers stated that the two stations have gone too far by playing nothing but Christmas music three weeks before Thanksgiving.

The prolonged all-Christmas format is a relative newcomer to the radio world. About five years ago, the number of stations offering it just after Thanksgiving started growing. Many of those stations discovered increased ratings - more listeners - and advertising-dollar bonanzas when they aired the music of the season. Then, other stations in those markets reacted and launched all-Christmas formats of their own. That is what happened in metro Detroit when WMGC jumped on the holiday bandwagon this year.

Also, to capitalize on this lucrative market niche, station managers have pushed the start date earlier and earlier to avoid being outdone by their rivals. Research has shown that the first station moving to the Christmas format scores the vast majority of the listeners for that season - and ratings period.

Darren Davis, regional vice president of programming for WNIC owner Clear Channel, said he doesn't believe the start time for Christmas music is too early for his listeners.

"WNIC has been a leader in the Detroit radio community for over 20 years, and we've stayed on top by giving the WNIC listener family what they ask for. The positive feedback about our Christmas music outweighs the negative by a 10-1 margin. We can't argue with that kind of overwhelming desire. People just love to hear such special music on the radio," he said.

Officials at WMGC did not comment for this story.

But if the informal survey is accurate, it appears that the all-Christmas format might be on the verge of burning itself out because of overexposure too early in November, at least with many listeners.

Other stations are even fighting back. Listeners tuning in to oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) are hearing promo spots stating it is the station that "knows not when to play Christmas music."

One reader echoed a thought that should put chills up the spines of radio bosses in town: "Why don't we all boycott this tasteless lack of respect for the holiday and turn the radio off?"

Here's a sampling of other reader responses about whether the two radio stations have started playing Christmas music too soon:

- "We are avid listeners to Jim Harper on the (WMGC) morning show but have switched to WOMC because we do not want to hear Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. We love Christmas songs, but not every day for seven weeks."

- "How many times a day can a listener hear 'Jingle Bells' before they say 'Enough!' and go in search of some sanity on another station?"

- "By the time Christmas gets here, I will probably be driven to throw my radio out my car window in front of a semi."

- "Christmas in November: it is overkill! It is as bad as the political electioneering. Both are mind-numbing and eventually offer no enjoyment, only offense."

- "As a kid in the 1960s, I always looked forward to the Detroit radio stations that would start holiday music about 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and play it continuously through Christmas Day. It was the soundtrack of my family's drive to midnight Mass, opening presents on Christmas morning and the afternoon trips to my aunt's house for Christmas dinners. It was special- something that, even in to my teen years, I looked forward to every year. Too much of anything, however, and it stops being special."

- I enjoy hearing Christmas music now. ... It gives me a good feeling and makes you feel good. It makes you think not just of the commercial part and the presents of Christmas, but it starts you thinking about helping others, too, and how nice the season is. ... For those that don't like it, there are other stations to tune in to. ..."

- "After waking up to that stupid Grinch song for the second morning in a row, my clock radio is now tuned to (WDVD-FM) 96.3."






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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on November 12, 2004 8:00 AM.

National and area stations had their Election Day mettle was the previous entry in this blog.

Purtan brings posse to Hall of Fame induction is the next entry in this blog.

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