Holiday Music

By Dave Austin “Music Professor”

I was walking through the mall this past week and one of the large department stores had a DJ near its main entrance playing Christmas music and making promotional announcements. As I didn’t know the DJ, I found a comfortable spot nearby and observed him for a few minutes.

I hesitate to put anyone down, but this fellow was playing some of the most inappropriate music one could imagine.

While hip-hop may be okay on some occasions, it’s probably not the best choice when trying to draw shoppers into an upscale department store.

In this particular situation, sticking to the tried and true holiday songs and mixing in some fitting current artists likely would have better served the purpose.

By the way, how’s your holiday music library sounding?

Something I discovered long ago: there are only a limited number of “traditional” holiday songs, and if you have an event of any length, you’ll likely find it necessary to play the same song title more than once. So, it’s prudent to have multiple versions of, let’s say, “Jingle Bells.”

I checked my stash of holiday music and found that I have more than a dozen versions of several songs. These range from lush orchestral arrangements, vocals by Andy Williams, Mel Torme’, Johnny Mathis and Mariah Carey, favorite seasonal secular standards such as ‘White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire), Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, and more modern artist like the Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and Chris Brown’s “This Christmas.”

In short, we need a variety of styles of these song titles to fit the particular events at which they will be appropriate.

For example, when doing a company party, you would want to play more low-key and traditional versions of songs during the cocktail and dinner hours as guests socialize and get into the mood of the occasion.

However, once the dance floor has opened, you can move on to songs which have the vital attributes of being 1.) well-known and 2.) danceable. Stay away from songs with negative or “anti” themes or sentiments.

Always keep in mind that people want to feel good at this time of year and the right music can lift their spirits and create a celebratory air for the event.

If you’re playing for a younger crowd, tailor your music selections to their tastes. However, don’t forget that the holidays are heavily comprised of tradition, and even young people will sing along with traditional favorites such as “White Christmas.”

Your music mix probably should include a sprinkling of such older traditional songs.

On a related note, I also have instrumental or karaoke versions of traditional holiday songs. Why? Because if people will break into song at no other time, they will join in a sing-along of Christmas carols. A sing-along at your holiday events is a fun and easy way to add an interactive element to your performance and increase your chances of being hired again next year.

I found this listing of the most performed Christmas songs in the United States. It’s a good idea to have all these in your library, and each year as new Christmas albums are released by the currently popular artists, continue to add fresh tracks to your inventory.

However, it’s highly unlikely those beloved traditional versions of favorite songs are going to go away anytime soon. So, you’ll want to continue to mix the old with the new.

We break out these songs for only a short time each year, but we should maintain a large variety of styles in our library, not only because they are important to our clients and guests, but also because we’re expected to have them as the season or occasion demands.

By the way, New Year’s Eve is coming up next. Do you know where your copy of Guy Lombardo’s “Auld Lang Syne” is?


  • Dave Austin began his career at age 13 at a small, hometown radio station. He went on to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. Since that time, Dave has been a mobile and radio DJ, radio station Program Director, and a TV news reporter and anchorman. He has also done voiceover work for documentaries and commercials. In 1986 Dave’s longtime passion for music prompted him to start “Southern Celebrations DJs,” a multi-system mobile entertainment company serving clients in Tennessee, Northern Georgia and Northern Alabama. You can email him c/o

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