Listening habits change after Halloween. The holiday music swells after the calendar turns to November. In December, holiday songs are as popular as top-performing pop, hip-hop, and R&B songs.
During the week ending December 26, holiday music topped a handful of Pandora’s top 10:
– 9 of the top 10 artists
– 9 of the top 10 titles
– 7 of the top 10 resorts
A sign of America’s craze for holiday music, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” sits at No. 9 on the current Billboard Hot 100 chart (Billboard includes Pandora spins in its calculations). A handful of other holiday favorites are also among the country’s top songs. December is the only time of year when a 59-year-old song (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”) by a 13-year-old singer (Brenda Lee) will top new singles from SZA and Taylor Swift.
Christmas is also an opportunity for lesser-known artists to shine.
To take Michele McLaughlin, solo pianist whose catalog includes three Christmas albums and 13 studio albums. Michele, a truly independent artist who owns a recording studio, is a top performer on Pandora’s New Age Instrumental and New Age Solo Piano channels – though she insists pianists hate the term. new age pianist and prefers to call his recordings musical storytelling. In terms of genomic traits, Michele performs melody-marked, arrangement-driven, and multi-sectional new age songs. In any case, she plays the piano, her songs are relaxing and listeners love her music.
Holiday music pirouettes jump after Halloween and go up until Christmas Day. Michele’s seasonal bump increased his daily spin count from 400-500,000 before Halloween to over a million on November 27. In the week before Christmas, Michele’s daily spins hit 1.4 million and peaked at 1.9 million on Christmas Day. (I found that Michele knows these numbers well. She keeps a close eye on her Pandora check-in activity. Artist Marketing Platform.)
To use an expression from Andy Williams, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for (some) royalty checks. Independent artists can reach weekly rounds of two to six million rounds at the end of December. At the standard royalty rate, an independent artist, who owns his masters and produces the music himself, is halfway to buying a nice car with just a few weeks of December royalties. This year’s Christmas bump sent Michele’s total spins — both holiday and non-holiday music — to 11 million in the week ending Christmas Day. “Pandora royalties are my main source of income [from royalties]”, said Michele, whose homepage prominently displays a link to her Pandora page. Sales of CDs and digital downloads are his second and third highest sources of income from his recorded music.
In some cases, an independent artist in the vein of McLachlan has almost as many, if not more, turns than well-known names. Her combined catalog of regular and holiday music put her at the top of Pandora’s Top 100 Artists last week. Consider which Christmas music has also done well right now: Jackie Evancho, Sarah McLachlan, Ellie Goulding, Sia, Gwen Stefani, Celtic Woman, Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, Colbie Caillat, Grace Potter, Faith Hill, Enya and Jo Dee Messina . Almost all of them have signed to a major label and are household names. Top men are also familiar, including Josh Groban, Jim Brickman, Keith Urban, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael Bolton and Chris Tomlin. All are household names. Some are legends. But have you heard of Brian Crain? He is another pianist who produces his own music. Christmas is good for Brian too; Brian reached the top 100 artists rotating on Pandora’s Christmas station, not far behind Jon Bon Jovi and the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s voluminous catalog of Christmas music released on independent label Surfdog Records.
Recognized or not, Michele now has 890 million spins at Pandora, putting her about 10 months away from the exclusive billion club. “I’m so grateful that people are listening and sharing. For an independent musician, that’s what you would hope for,” Michele said.
McLaughlin is also doing well in the offseason. Outside of the Christmas period, Michele’s spins are between 300 and 400,000 on almost all 7-day periods. His off-holiday recordings are typically melody-driven, arrangement-driven, multi-sectional new age songs. The song titles are perfectly descriptive; “Causeway Coastline”, “Stargazing” and “Blue Ice” all evoke picturesque musical storytelling. Piano music is doing well at Pandora. (Easy listening to other genres works well too. See my article on Mat Kearny and his incredible number of Pandora spins). Whether or not it has background music is irrelevant. People appreciate it and artists have tricks. Often these artists, like Michele, are independent in the sense that they record their own music, own the master rights to their recordings, and act as their own record label. Yes, for some independent artists, it’s definitely the most wonderful time of the year.