Oh, it's ON. The Los Angeles Christmas radio wars, that is. Adult contemporary KTWV-FM "The Wave" (94.7) pulled a fast one on KOST-FM (103.5) over the weekend, launching an all-Christmas playlist on Sunday night. As you know, that's traditionally KOST's territory -- and it's paid off handsomely for KOST, which has ended the last few Decembers in first place thanks to its ho-ho-horrible all-Christmas music. (Sorry, just a difference in personal taste.)
Former KOST program director Jhani Kaye is over at The Wave now, and has turned the smooth jazz outlet further away from Kenny G (oh, don't worry, your aunt's favorite frizzy-haired saxophonist is still heard) and more of a competitor to KOST. And this holiday season, that means he hopes to steal some of KOST's Christmas audience.
Billboards all over town have gone up promoting The Wave as Los Angeles' "NEW Christmas Station" and promising cash prizes. But KOST isn't taking things lying down. The station bumped up its switch to Christmas music by a few days (last year it launched the Thursday before Thanksgiving) and is continuing to tout itself as "Your Official Holiday Music Station."
Radio consultant Sean Ross took a listen to The Wave's Christmas format and had this to say:
The good news is that this is definitely NOT the holiday format as heard on most Mainstream AC stations. The promos emphasize that there’s lots of music from Smooth Jazz artists and there indeed seemed to be one represented every 15 minutes or so.
As a station that effectively doubles as Urban AC for its market, one might have expected The Wave to do a more soulful holiday format than the typical AC model. In the segment I heard, there were more R&B artists in the mix, performing the holiday standards, but it was very different from the very R&B-flavored holiday format of the U.K.’s Smooth Radio. (The station does have an upcoming “Winter Wonderland” concert starring Brian McKnight, El DeBarge, and Johnny Gill.)
In fact, if anything, because the jazziness of the station lent itself to so many of the pre-rock artists heard at holiday time, the Wave actually plays a little more traditional than the average AC station. When you break up Sinatra and Bing Crosby with Al Jarreau, it almost plays like those neo-Standards/lounge formats that a number of programmers were trying to float a few years ago.
Here's a comparison of the two stations. First, what Ross heard on The Wave:
Ella Fitzgerald, “Sleigh Ride”
Katherine McPhee, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Frank Sinatra, “Jingle Bells”
Al Jarreau, “The Christmas Song”
Bing Crosby, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”
Kenny G., “Winter Wonderland”
Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Kirk Whalum, “Do You Hear What I Hear”
Stylistics, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
Amy Grant, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”
Peter White, “Jingle Bells”
Patti Austin, “This Christmas”
And here's a sample of what KOST played today:
Celine Dion - O Holy Night
Wham! - Last Christmas
Brenda Lee - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - The Little Drummer Boy
Elvis Presley - Here Comes Santa Claus
Amy Grant - Winter Wonderland
Jack Wagner - All I Need
Neil Diamond - You Make It Feel Like Christmas
Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
OK, I'm guessing the "All I Need" was dropped in there because a DJ was talking about Heather Locklear's breakup with Jack Wagner. But what do you think -- does either station have the edge in holiday tunes? Or will you be blocking both from your car stereo?