Media Scene

Holiday standards turn ears to radio

One of WDAV-FM’s most popular annual Christmas specials is the Charlotte Lessons & Carols from St. John’s Baptist Church, which will air at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.
One of WDAV-FM’s most popular annual Christmas specials is the Charlotte Lessons & Carols from St. John’s Baptist Church, which will air at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.

It may sound like the same 10 songs over and over again, but there actually about 200 carols being played in rotation on WKQC-FM (“K” 104.7), where it is the most wonderful time of the year.

“Charlotte’s Official Christmas Station,” as the Beasley Media Group station calls itself, started playing nothing but holiday standards at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving, the minute the first store opened for Black Friday sales.

Other stations insert Christmas songs into the mix, but WKQC goes wall to wall, finishing its blitz on Dec. 26, as it has for years. Last December, the station commanded 11 percent of all radio listening for the month, the highest rating of any station any time of the year, according to Nielsen.

By comparison, Charlotte’s top stations – country music titans WSOC-FM (103.7) and WKKT-FM (“Kat” 96.9) have been leading the league lately – consider 8 percent an excellent showing in any given month.

How is WKQC the “official” Christmas station? There’s no proclamation from the mayor, no endorsement from the North Pole.

“It’s the official Christmas stationbecause it is the only Charlotte station playing 100 percent mainstream Christmas music,” says John Reynolds, WKQC’s operations manager.

WKQC has a near-monopoly on holiday music since its main competitor WLYT-FM (“Lite”) changed formats two years ago to its play-anything format as WLKO-FM (“Lake” 102.9).

And WRCM-FM (91.9), a contemporary Christian station for the last two decades that played purely Christmas music this time of year, switched to the syndicated, California-based K-Love format after it was sold last year.

Reynolds says those who complain about the repetition have to remember that there are many, many versions of the most popular songs by different artists.

Annual favorites include “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Sleigh Bells” and “Blue Christmas,” he says.

Charlotte’s other Christmas dynamo is classical WDAV-FM (89.9), which started inserting holiday compositions on Nov. 30 and will gradually increase the mix throughout December.

This week, about 10 to 15 minutes per hour is dedicated to holiday music, says general manager Frank Dominguez. Next week it will be 30 minutes per hour and it will be all holiday shows on Christmas Eve and day. WDAV continues playing some holiday music until New Year’s.

There are 2,447 different holiday recordings in WDAV’s catalog, with a lot of the same music played by different artists and orchestras, Dominguez says. That total includes 363 local recordings, ranging from artists who have sent in CDs to compositions collected from station broadcasts such as the annual Davidson College Vespers Service and the Charlotte Lessons & Carols from St. John’s Baptist Church.

WDAV will have 25 Christmas-themed specials throughout the month, Dominguez says, including “An Old Time Radio Christmas” with Theater Charlotte at 9 p.m. Dec 23.

WDAV sees ratings rise each December and most of the feedback from listeners is positive.

“Occasionally, we hear from people who say, ‘You’re a classical music station – what are you playing this for?’” says Dominguez. “But we have lots of great music in the classical realm that fits the holiday season.”