With Christmas fast approaching, our Head of Programming, Fraser Dougall, answers a few questions on musically preparing a business for the festive season.
Q: What’s the first thing to consider in planning a venue’s Christmas music?
A: First decide whether to have ‘Christmas music’ at all! Will Christmas tunes provide the right ambience to suit clientele and styling? Health Centres tend not to play Christmas music in the gym – even up-tempo Christmas music doesn’t tend to be right for that environment – but most will have an easier-listening playlist in the reception area, and that often includes a Christmas interleave. Think about what fits with your other music: for instance, Slade would be somewhat out-of-place in a Fine Dining restaurant, which would likely suit our ‘Christmas Instrumental’ playlist more than ‘Christmas Pop’, and the uplifting blues and soul of our ‘Blue Christmas’ playlist would probably be a better fit for a style bar.
Q: So not the famous Christmas tracks, then?
A: That depends on your venue’s styling and clientele: for many people, the famous ‘Christmas Pop’ tracks put them straight into the Christmas spirit and help them have a great night. Venues which have a unique style and want to retain that coolness at Christmas, though, might want to consider alternative tracks that are still cheery, full of Christmas spirit and with obvious winter and Christmas themes, but which their customers won’t hear everywhere else.
Q: When should Christmas music start?
A: Will your customers think Christmas celebrations should be kept to December, or will they want to ramp up the excitement for weeks beforehand? Generally, we recommend programming Christmas music to start when your business gets festive: when do you put up Christmas decorations? When does your Christmas stock go onto shelves? When does your Christmas menu start? When is your first Christmas Party booking?
Q: 100% Christmas, or just a taste?
A: There are only maybe four hours of famous ‘Christmas Pop’, which isn’t much to repeat day after day, so you need to bear this in mind for your staff. Many of our clients use the system’s interleave function at Christmas, starting light and gradually increasing the frequency of Christmas tracks: maybe programming one Christmas track in every four in late November, then down to every second track in early December; perhaps 100% Christmas for the last week or two. In addition to dedicated Christmas tracks, past Christmas No.1s are often closely associated with the festive period – think East 17s Stay – so they can also be used to give a bit of variety to a Christmas playlist.
Q: What about venues whose clientele changes through the day?
A: Many venues increase their music tempo through the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Your Christmas music wants to tie in with this – you don’t play a slow song when the energy’s high – so our clients’ systems can increase the tempo of the Christmas tracks in line with the rest of the music.
Q: When should venues stop playing Christmas music?
A: Most businesses will move onto New Year parties by the end of the year, so we generally recommend stopping Christmas music by then. Many of our clients finish their music on Boxing Day.
Q: Any last pointers?
A: Every business is unique, so choose music to suit your venue, at Christmas, just as you do the rest of the year. Don’t feel pressured into playing Christmas music if it’s not right for you but, equally, don’t be afraid to play Christmas Pop if that suits your clients.