Holiday Albums Can Become Classics
December 24, 2007 at 5:23 AM (PT)
ALAN JACKSON, GARTH BROOKS and TOBY KEITH have a couple apiece. KENNY ROGERS and DOLLY PARTON did one together. The ever-prolific WILLIE NELSON has at least four of them. Most country stars, and many of their pop counterparts, have a CHRISTMAS album or two in their catalogs, and for good reason: The records are relatively easy to make and have the potential for big payoff.
"If it's really good, it can go for 20 years," said CAPITOL RECORDS/NASHVILLE VP/Sales BILL KENNEDY.
Released in 1957, "ELVIS' Christmas Album" is the top-selling holiday release of all time with 9 million in sales, according to the RECORDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA. The single "Blue Christmas" is a CHRISTMAS classic, even parodied by PORKY PIG. Other CHRISTMAS blockbusters are KENNY G's "Miracles: The Holiday Album" (8 million) and BARBARA STREISAND's "A Christmas Album" (5 million), according to the RIAA.
But the Christmas kings, at least in terms of sales, have to be MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER with two albums topping the 6 million mark: "A Fresh Aire CHRISTMAS" and "Mannheim Steamroller CHRISTMAS."
Holiday Records Are Unique In The Way They're Promoted And Marketed
"It is a very short window that begins in late OCTOBER, hits its peak the first two weeks of DECEMBER, and then falls off the cliff right after the holiday," explained UMG/NASHVILLE EVP/Sales, Marketing & New Media BEN KLINE.
Though the window is tight, successful releases will do well for at least a few seasons before trailing off, said WARNER BROTHERS/NASHVILLE SVP/Sales & Marketing PETER STRICKLAND.
That's what happened with WARNER BROTHERS' "A Very Larry Christmas" by LARRY THE CABLE GUY. In 2004, the first year, the comedy album sold 150,000 copies. That shot to 250,000 the second year and to 315,000 the third. This year, sales fell to about 70,000, though some of that likely is due to the OCTOBER release of a second CHRISTMAS album by the comic, "Christmastime in Larryland."
Because most CHRISTMAS albums contain standards, they can be easier and faster to record than an album of new material, but not always. Choirs and string sections can add time and cost.
And with marketing and promotions time compressed, TV appearances become key, said SONY BMG/NASHVILLE Chairman JOE GALANTE. "We think of CHRISTMAS CDs as albums that will sell mainly for three to five years and won't be driven by hit singles on the radio," GALANTE said.