Music sales still strong for holiday albums

In this handout photo provided by Disney, Grammy Award-winning singer Mariah Carey waves to the crowd in front of an oversized Christmas card while taping the 'Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade' TV special at the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 3, 2010 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Steve Chiotakis: Hey, here's news: Justin Bieber's new Christmas single is out today. Yeah, I know -- it's October. His full Christmas album, "Under the Misteltoe," will be out in just a couple of weeks.

As Marketplace's Adriene Hill reports, holiday albums like this make nice stocking stuffers for the music industry.


Adriene Hill: Justin Bieber wants to cozy up this holiday season.

Justin Bieber in "Mistletoe": I'm going to be under the mistletoe with you.

And who can blame him?

David Bakula: Everybody is still demanding holiday records.

David Bakula is a V.P. of analytics at the Nielsen Company.

Bakula: If you look at last year's top sellers, the number five record of the year -- for the entire year last year -- was Susan Boyle's holiday record. You know, you are talking about a record that came out the first week of November.

The thing with holiday music is that we still buy whole albums -- we buy CDs even.

Aram Sinnreich is a media professor at Rutgers University.

Aram Sinnreich: Holiday music looks more like the music industry did back in the 1990s.

Why? Well, because a lot of these albums are sold as presents.

Sinnereich: People prefer to get gifts that are actually material. No one wants to open a box and see nothing inside it and have someone say, 'oh well, what I got you is a bunch of 1s and 0s. Don't worry, it'll show up on your computer tomorrow.'

Big sales of whole albums aren't only reasons artists rush to belt out "Jingle Bells" and "Oh Holy Night."

Sean Ross is the V.P. of music and programming for Edison Research. He says a couple decades ago, studios had an epiphany.

Sean Ross: Holiday albums were a good way to sell records by artists who weren't top of mind anymore in pop culture and didn't necessarily get a lot of radio airplay.

Think Neil Diamond, Wilson Phillips, Amy Grant. Even Mariah Carey, whose modern standard "All I Want For Christmas is You" is likely no more than a month away from your radio dial -- OK, less than a month. A lot less.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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