KMGL also programs a balance of traditional tracks by Bing Crosby, Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra, alongside more recent Christmas fare.
“Last year, Michael Buble put out a new Christmas CD, so we culled some cuts from that,” O’Brien said. “This year, you have Rod Stewart, you’ve got Lady Antebellum. Even Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta have one out this year. I wouldn’t say there’s a formula, but you’re definitely trying to choose the best. I would say the ones that seem to resonate the best are the familiar ones.”
At KMGL, those songs include tracks from the 1980s, including Eurythmics’ popular version of “Winter Wonderland” along with Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and Wham’s “Last Christmas.” KMGL promotions director and on-air talent Jennifer Leigh said the most popular songs are ones that nearly every artist with a Christmas album records, such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night,” but Leigh said there is one track that stands out for her.
“I would say ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses for a New Wave ’80s Christmas — that’s the one for me,” Leigh said. “When I hear that, it’s time.”
KMGL afternoon deejay Jessi Stone said her kickoff for the holiday season is a more recent new tradition: a cappella group Straight No Chaser’s chaotically comic version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
“I like it, but I love comedy, though,” Stone said. “I love to laugh during this season because I hate cold weather. It makes me smile.”
Beyond inspiring good cheer, the all-Christmas format can provide ratings boosts for stations around the country. In a Dec. 9 news story in the Hollywood Reporter, Arbitron, the national auditor for radio listenership and ratings, reported that some major-market stations, such as KOST-FM in Los Angeles and New York’s WLTW-FM, saw their ratings during the Christmas period double in 2011.
Travis said that “KXY” would welcome such good tidings. More “cume,” or the estimated number of listeners who tune in during part of the day, is always on local stations’ wish list.
“We’re hoping to gain more audience,” he said. “We’re hoping to get more cume than KXY had before.”