Streaming Joy: The Holiday Hits That Bring Us Together

By Garrett Levin, President and CEO, Digital Media Association (DiMA)

Thanksgiving always marks an important moment in the calendar for me. It is now socially acceptable to listen to John Denver & The Muppets A Christmas Together at least once a day for the next month. For me, this album has been the soundtrack of the holidays for as long as I can remember, and I’m determined to make it the soundtrack of my children’s holidays, too (don’t worry, they are adding their own favorites as well, although let’s be clear, there is no better version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” than John Denver & The Muppets).

Music is at the heart of so many families’ holiday traditions because of the powerful emotional response music creates. Whether it’s buying last-minute gifts to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” wrapping presents while Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” streams on your smart speaker, or having Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Light One Candle” back a game of high-stakes dreidel, music is woven into the fabric of our holiday celebrations

The holidays are a time to relax and reconnect, whether it be with family and friends we may not have seen for some time, with long-standing family traditions, or — whether you want to or not — with your grandmother’s favorite casserole recipe. When it comes to the music we love, it means rediscovering the songs that propelled countless celebrations over the years, creating a connective thread that reminds us of past holiday memories while soundtracking new ones.

That rediscovery has never been easier due to music streaming, which has turbocharged fans’ ability to replay — and rediscover — the holiday songs that have been the backdrop for their memorable holiday moments. From dedicated stations, personalized playlists (thanks to my sister for curating our family’s) and on-demand hits, streaming has allowed holiday revelers to play the festive tunes they love on their terms.

One need only look at the list of the top streamed holiday songs from 2020 to see how millions of people are using modern music streaming to transport themselves to their happy holiday place. From Mariah’s ubiquitous “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock,” to more modern holiday hits such as Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” and legendary standards such as Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” music fans love to delve into the catalog when scoring their holiday season.

This annual resurgence of holiday favorites highlights something I wrote about earlier this year — one of the superpowers of music streaming has been dramatically shifting how we discover music. Whether it’s finding new music and new artists, or rediscovering artists we’ve known and loved for years, streaming has completely reshaped how fans connect music to their everyday lives. Fans who were once limited by what was on the radio, CD or vinyl are now empowered for their own music discovery journey and find the artists, songs and genres they want to listen to without limitation.

Rediscovery of favorite artists and songs is a critical part of that discovery process, as we found when we partnered with MusicWatch and A2IM earlier this year to explore how fans are discovering music. As part of the survey of 1000 music fans across the United States, we found that streaming was the most prominent way that fans discover music and that more than 60% of listeners reported regularly rediscovering older but familiar songs they knew. And while I don’t have the data to back this claim up, I’d bet that last stat jumps up to 100% during the holiday season.

So as we make our way toward the new year, see what favorite holiday songs you can find. You might just rediscover a forgotten classic, or find your favorite new tune to round out your holiday playlist for next year.

To help you out, here’s a playlist I put together of some of my own favorites and those of DiMA’s Board and staff:

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE DiMA HOLIDAY PLAYLIST

President & CEO, DiMA www.dima.org