Biz Buzz for December: Holidays Can Be A Boom Time for Musicians, Songwriters




Christmas and New Year’s are a joyful time of year for everyone, and for singers and songwriters, the holidays can also be a very busy and profitable time.

New Year’s Eve may well be the busiest night of the entire year for working musicians and bands. Musicians know this, and so do club owners and venue operators.

Therefore, it’s traditional for artists to charge more on New Year’s Eve than they would for a normal gig. For instance, if you or your country artist typically gets $1,000 per night for a club or private-party appearance, don’t hesitate to ask for $1,200 for New Year’s Eve.

That becomes a supply-and-demand issue. Clubs and restaurants nearly always have special New Year’s Eve events, often with package deals that include dinner and champagne at midnight. Music plays a huge part in that, and the club owners realize that they’ll likely have to budget more for music than on a typical night, since so many bands are working that evening.

And by the by, whether you or your artist specialize in country, Bluegrass, or any other genre of music, if you’re gonna play New Year’s Eve, you dang well better learn “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s not a difficult song, but make it a point to rehearse it before the gig and be ready to play it at midnight. If you don’t have it ready, you’re gonna tick off everybody at the party.

The Christmas shopping season is also prime time for retailers from coast to coast. They do a huge portion of their annual business in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as customers shop for gifts—often big-ticket items.

And many smart storeowners and managers realize that an ideal way to increase the holiday traffic in their stores is to have live music. Maybe you or your artist could play in their parking lot, which would add greatly to the buzz of their store.

If you are booked for a gig like that, make sure to have the store permit you to sell your merch and CDs during the show. You can move a great deal of merchandise at a busy show like that, so make sure you have enough CDs and T-shirts on hand to meet the demand.

Songwriters can also find the holiday season to be a potential gold mine for royalties. For instance, have you ever heard of the songwriter Randy Brooks? Maybe not, but you’ve certainly heard a tune that Randy wrote. It’s performed by the unusual duo called Elmo & Patsy, and is called “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”

This novelty single first appeared on the Billboard country charts in 1984, when it was released on the independent Soundwave label. A new version reappeared on the charts in 1998, this time on a major label—Epic.

Epic Nashville even cut an Elmo & Patsy album.

Think of the songwriting and publishing royalties Randy Brooks receives every year from “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Christmas songs are totally unique in that respect. If you write or sing a popular one, it can return year after year and generate spins and income for you every time.

Even if you wrote a George Strait or Reba hit, such as Gary Harrison and Keith Stegall’s “I Hate Everything” (a No. 1 Billboard single for George in 2004) or Reba’s 1985 No. 1 “How Blue” (written by John Moffat), the song would get the vast majority of its spins the first time it was at radio.

Holiday songs are different. Popular ones get spun year after year, and many country stations go to an all-Christmas format between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Some become all-Christmas even before that.

Think of this. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” first charted on Billboard in 1984, when it reached No. 92. Each time it charted after that on the Billboard country charts, in 1998 and 2000, it climbed higher. The song reached No. 64 its second time, and No. 48 the third time.

Elmo & Patsy were a married couple that have since divorced, and we hear that Elmo is currently living and working in Nashville.

A far better Christmas song was penned by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson, and was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957. Forty-one years later, and 21 years after Elvis died, “Blue Christmas” became the only Presley song to appear on the Billboard country singles charts in the entire decade of the 1990s.

Country stations that go to an all-Christmas format every year have a limited number of songs that fit the format. If you’re a smart artist or songwriter, you can take advantage of that shortage. Just maybe, you’ll create the next “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” or “Blue Christmas.” If you do, you’ll find it a whole lot easier to do that last minute Christmas shopping with the royalty checks you’ll receive year after year.





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