IDAHO FALLS – The sounds of Christmas are back in eastern Idaho.
Since Monday morning, KLCE 97.3 FM has been broadcasting Christmas music 24/7 until the end of the year.
Classy 97 has traditionally started playing holiday music closer to Thanksgiving. Bill Fuerst, chief executive of Riverbend Communications, which owns Classy and four other stations, told EastIdahoNews.com that the decision to launch it earlier in the season is based on trends in other markets.
“Over the past year, many people in our industry and in larger communities have decided that what many people need during the pandemic is an inspiration and a helping hand,” said Fuerst.
Fuerst explains that some radio stations in major markets started playing Christmas music in July of last year.
“I have a friend who programs the Christmas music station in Phoenix, and when he introduced me to the idea, I thought he was crazy,” says Fuerst. “But they had overwhelming success and an incredible increase in ratings. It went up on a weekly basis and had a very positive impact on them.
While there is data indicating that the appropriate day to start playing Christmas music is as early as possible, Fuerst felt that doing it closer to Thanksgiving made sense, because that’s when most people come home to be with their families. The decision to start playing Christmas music on November 1 came several months ago.
“It was just the right thing to do this year. After COVID and everything else, people needed lightness,” said Jade Davis, director of operations at Riverbend.
Davis says the station received a great reception last year by running holiday music until Dec.31 instead of shutting it down on Boxing Day, so they’re continuing the same trend this year.
Fuerst says Classy 97 is gaining new listeners in November and December who don’t normally listen the rest of the year. Yet the anticipated launch never fails to attract a large percentage of Christmas music “haters”.
Music director Viktor Wilt says he’s spent a lot of time picking out “the best of the best Christmas songs” for the East Idaho market, and he hopes those who aren’t particularly excited about the early launch will give it a chance.
“With Christmas music, those basic songs tend to be the ones you come back to over and over again. Even artists who release Christmas carols every year tend to pick up on the classics. It’s pretty rare that a whole new original Christmas song comes out, but you see it coming up every now and then, ”says Wilt.
New holiday music is already starting to appear from artists and Wilt is delighted to hear what listeners are saying.
“There is a wide variety of the best of each style of Christmas song for the people of eastern Idaho,” says Wilt.
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