South Jersey Radio Station Easy 93.1 Has Been Playing Christmas Music for a Month
It’s a tiny 4,000-watt station based in Wildwood Crest. But if you’ve happened to catch WEZW 93.1 recently, you probably remember it: Since October 17th, it has been playing Christmas music.
Gary Fisher, the owner of station parent company Equity Communications, explains that one of his stations shifted to Christmas music earlier and earlier each year, and it got a good response from listeners each time. They eventually settled on the third Friday in October as the time to make the switch.
“That creates the right combination of controversy, head-scratching and, ultimately, lots of affinity and partisanship,” Fisher says. “And a great deal of affinity to the music.”
Equity Communications owns several radio stations down the Shore in a variety of formats. In 2010, one of Equity Communications’ urban stations was the first to flip to Christmas music. WEZW-FM usually plays an easy listening/soft adult contemporary format.
Soon, other stations will be making the switch. More FM — the former B101 — has been surveying listeners on Christmas songs for weeks. Scores of stations have followed Easy 93.1 in flipping to Christmas music before Thanksgiving.
“Christmas programming is one of the most magnificent ratings generators in radio,” Fisher says. “Within 2 or 3 weeks, about 500 stations in America are running all Christmas music … our ratings double and our advertiser billings quadruple.”
Fisher says a majority of the audience likes the early changeover. “I look forward to it,” Cape May Court House’s Marla Uzanus told The New York Times. “I would rather listen to this than some of this other nonsense you hear on the radio, these young people glorified for cursing and swearing.”
Not everyone is happy. “We get a lot of complaints the first week,” Fisher says. “My sense is if they’re complaining, it means they’re listening. If the weather stays warm a little later than normal, the complaints seem to be more abundant. If the weather turns cold and nasty like it has today, there are no complaints.”
Here’s a reason why Christmas music works so well on radio: It’s in storage for 10 months of the year; while it would’t feel incongruous to hear “Summertime” in January, it would feel strange to hear “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in June.
“Maybe you don’t play the song on a radio for a while and if you play it back when you rest it, it comes back with a certain halo and a certain luster,” Fisher says. “That’s true of the entire Christmas catalog.” By the time you’re sick of the most overplayed Christmas song, it’s gone for another 10 months. If summer songs disappeared after
Memorial Labor Day, there would no doubt be “summer music” stations.
Fisher himself loves Christmas music. You get the feeling he almost wishes he could play it year-round. “I’ve never understood why [Christmas music isn’t played all year], because the music is some of the best music ever made,” he says. “The greatest songs ever made. But the conventional logic in radio is you don’t play them until around Christmas.”
This year the Christmas changeover has a little extra meaning for Fisher, with the economy in and around Atlantic City struggling after the closure of four casinos this year (so far).
“Given what’s happening now in the South Jersey economy,” Fisher says. “Christmas music is very enlightening.”
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