Holidays are coming back: Why Christmas music is booming in the streaming era

Mariah Carey

It’s Chrissssstmaaaaas! Well, alright, it patently isn’t. But, while the decorations have been taken down and the wrapping paper has been cleared away, if you were lucky enough to write, record or release a classic festive song, there will be a nice present for you when your next royalty cheque arrives.

We’ve been crunching the Official Charts Company numbers on Christmas music streams this week (they’ve only just arrived, like a late gift from a forgetful auntie) and, if festive tunes seemed like they were more ubiquitous in 2018 than ever before, well, they were.

Not only did the Week 52 Singles Chart feature an unprecedented 43 Christmas songs, from Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You (pictured) to Frank Sinatra's Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (44 if you include East 17’s Stay Another Day, associated with the season, even if it doesn’t mention it), but the streaming numbers highlight a seachange in consumption.

In the whole of 2018, there were 366,792,435 streams of Christmas tracks in the UK. That’s up 51% up on 2017, which was itself up 73% on 2016, meaning the number of festive streams has increased 161.3% in two years.

Of course, streaming in general has expanded exponentially in that period, but the total audio stream market has only risen 92%, meaning Christmas tunes are out-performing the market. They now account for 4.04% of total annual streams, versus 2.97% in 2016.

The implications for the industry are clear. A classic Christmas song is now more valuable than ever, so everyone will want one in their catalogue, if only to keep those monthly listener numbers up during December. Hence the likes of Katy Perry being up for doing a Christmas streaming exclusive.

But it goes beyond the festive season too. The ubiquity of streaming and voice control means there are few annual celebrations that pass without a revenue-earning soundtrack. If you’re not targeting similarly holiday-themed activity around, say, Valentine’s Day (hello Michael Bublé's Love album!) or Halloween, you’ll be missing a trick.

And, by the time Christmas rolls around again – and people now start streaming Yuletide hits as soon as November kicks in – competition for ears will be more cut-throat than ever. So, don’t wait until the red cups are in Starbucks: look to the future right now, it’s only just begun…

* For Music Week's full, in-depth analysis of the 2018 sales figures and market shares, click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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