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A Christmas hit can be the gift that keeps on giving, so why have so many artists given up? | Jessica Mizrahi

To me, the Christmas season doesn’t begin when workplaces shut. It’s not when the first particular person on the road turns on the Christmas lights, and even as soon as the Christmas pageant has been held.

It’s the first day I hear a carol.

Everybody’s obtained their favourites. It’d be a basic or a canopy, spiritual or secular, joyful or unhappy. No matter it might be, and nonetheless a lot we’d roll our eyes, it’s a good time for music.

Which suggests a good time for musicians. Christmas music has lengthy been serving to artists make cash. In actual fact, the Guinness Book of World Records calls Bing Crosby’s 1942 White Christmas the bestselling single of all time, with greater than 50m gross sales worldwide.

There was a time when releasing a Christmas album was an artist’s greatest hope at making a couple of {dollars}, and whereas there’s no exhaustive supply of album releases, Allmusic data suggests there have been greater than 230 Christmas albums launched in 2001.

Number of Christmas albums released

Supply: writer calculations based mostly on Allmusic

By 2011, that quantity had plunged to just a little over 90. A tough early rely suggests that this 12 months, the tally will be about 60.

What’s with the decline of Christmas albums?

First, it’s symptomatic of the sluggish demise of albums extra broadly. As musical expertise and codecs have modified, so too have preferences. In the 2010 calendar 12 months, Australians purchased 33m CD albums. By 2020, the quantity had dropped to three.3m – one-tenth of the worth it was 10 years in the past. In a return to retro, forecasts counsel that in 2021, we in all probability spent more on vinyl than on CDs.

CDs outlined the album format. A CD can match 74 minutes of content material – the size of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Followers had been prepared to pay a premium for an album ($20-$30) over a single ($5-$10). Labels and artists designed albums with two to 3 hopeful hits (which might be spun out in to singles), and a steadiness of filler tracks. The follow was each frequent and customary sense.

Now, after all, there may be streaming.

In accordance with 2020 figures, streaming represents 89% of complete recorded music gross sales in Australia by worth. By all accounts, you’re extra prone to see a subscription gift card in your electronic mail this 12 months then you might be to see a CD wrapped beneath a tree.

Artists and labels have tailored accordingly. Beneath streaming fashions, music makers receives a commission each time somebody listens to a observe – or the first 30 seconds of it. The result’s extra focus on singles, and shorter track lengths. You might break a three-minute track in to 2 one-and-a-half minute songs, or three one-minute songs, and receives a commission double (or triple) as a lot in your efforts.

The opposite contributor is that streaming offers higher entry to a wider catalogue.

In a bodily music retailer, constraints round distribution and bodily house meant that artists had been very reliant on labels and networks to get entry to shoppers. Whether or not a single or an album, you may solely take up shelf house for so lengthy. Music had a brief half-life.

On-line, nonetheless, there are few limits. Musicians can attain audiences of thousands and thousands with out labels – a Scottish man singing a Kiwi folks track on a social media platform grew to become the track of a pandemic, with greater than 75m views.

It’s additionally enabling entry to golden oldies – and growing focus on them. Older Christmas songs have turn out to be more and more outstanding on Spotify charts over the final 5 years. For example, think about the most streamed songs in Australia on 20 December from 2017 (the first 12 months Spotify chart knowledge is accessible) onwards.

Christmas themed vinyl records by Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby are displayed for sale at a Target store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania U.S.
Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby albums on sale in the US final 12 months. {Photograph}: Mark Makela/Reuters

In 2017, each track in the Prime 10 had been launched that 12 months. In 2018, Mariah Carey’s 1994 festive hit All I Need for Christmas Is You made the listing – and it has featured in the Prime 10 every year since. Three out of the Prime 10 streamed songs on Spotify in Australia on 20 December 2021 had been from earlier years.

This isn’t to say that there have been no new contenders. This 12 months, Ed Sheeran, Kelly Clarkson and Megan Thee Stallion have all thrown their hats in to the ring. But none have made the Christmas week Prime 50. It’s no marvel that festive new releases have declined.

Nostalgic Christmas listening just isn’t restricted to streaming. Take into account the basic crooners making a living from past the grave. There was a minimum of one Christmas album launch from Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole each single 12 months for the final decade. Not unhealthy contemplating none of them have not seen a Christmas in additional than 20 years.

Number of Christmas albums released by year

Supply: writer calculations based mostly on Allmusic

Love them or hate them, Christmas songs are right here to remain. So flip it up and make the most of it whereas it lasts – January is just per week away.

Jessica Mizrahi is an financial guide and commentator. She has taught, researched and utilized economics for over a decade

The writer beforehand served on the board of the Australian Stay Music Enterprise Council and has beforehand co-authored analysis commissioned by the Australian Unbiased Report Labels Affiliation. All opinions and evaluation are her personal

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