Holiday Music: The One Constant In An Uncertain Season

Melissa Paris

This holiday season is sure to be unlike any that came before it. With so much uncertainty about how we'll be able to celebrate and gather together this year, the one certainty we can count on is holiday music. With COVID-19 cases currently surging throughout the country at levels previously unseen, it seems pretty certain that many of our favorite holiday traditions won’t be possible this year. Luckily we can turn to our favorite holiday music to transport us back to happy memories from seasons past.

Regardless of what the next few weeks end up looking like, music will put Pandora listeners in the holiday spirit, make their holidays come alive, and help them feel connected…even if they’re not actually seeing friends & family in person. It will also relax them, which is more important than ever after months of stress from a relentless news cycle covering the pandemic, social injustice, and a historic presidential election. We could all use a mental break from the chaos of 2020 by transporting to a winter wonderland, and what better way to do that than through holiday music? This is the power of audio at its best!

To get a better understanding of how consumers will be doing things differently this year, we tapped into Pandora Soundboard, our panel of over 75,000 Pandora listeners, to hear directly from our listeners how they plan to celebrate, shop for gifts, and listen to music, during this holiday season.

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For the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home!

Yes, that’s a lyric from a classic holiday song from the ‘50s, but it hits differently this year. In this case, ‘home’ for the holidays might not mean our hometown or our extended family’s home, but literally our own house/home - more than half of Pandora listeners (51%) plan to spend more time at home during the holidays this year compared to past years.

It should be no surprise, then, that over 9 in 10 Pandora listeners plan to listen to audio content during this holiday season while they’re at home (93%). Pandora listeners expect to listen to audio content during the holidays on multiple devices, many of which provide natural co-listening opportunities – especially with families, as Parents are even more likely to listen on these devices.

On average, Pandora listeners will consume audio content on 3.8 devices over the holidays. While smartphones and desktops/laptops still lead the way in terms of listening, many also plan to listen on various devices where they often listen with others:

  • 40% plan to listen via connected car (Parents: 112 index)
  • 33% plan to listen via Smart TV (Parents: 111 index)
  • 26% plan to listen via smart speaker (Parents: 112 index)
  • 18% plan to listen via in-home audio system, e.g. Sonos (Parents: 120 index)

Connected devices, both in the home and in the vehicle, will present endless opportunities to connect with Pandora listeners in moments where they’re more likely to be listening with family and loved ones throughout the holiday season.

Audio will be listeners’ constant companion throughout the holiday season

Holiday music is the soundtrack to virtually every moment throughout the season, from the insignificant (baking your 10th batch of sugar cookies) to the memorable (exchanging gifts that will be cherished for years to come). For many, music even signals the very start of the holiday season - honestly, is it even possible to make it to December 1st without hearing Mariah belt out All I Want For Christmas Is You while in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, or any other everyday errand? Holiday music is virtually inescapable as soon as our Thanksgiving plates are cleared.

As in years past, holiday music is an essential element that fuels activities throughout the season for Pandora listeners. This year we are seeing some interesting shifts compared to previous holiday studies, reinforcing how our listeners are adapting to 2020’s ‘new normal’ even during the holidays:

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Holiday music is a constant for Pandora listeners – while their holidays might look very different this year, with less in-store shopping, less traveling & partying, and potentially not being with their loved ones in person, they can still rely on music to help them get in the spirit, especially while they're bringing holiday magic into their homes through decorating and cooking/baking.

So, how can you put these insights into practice as a marketer and truly leverage the power of audio during this holiday season?

  • Consider the moods and mindsets that listeners are in when turning to holiday music, and align your message accordingly for higher relevancy and impact.
  • While Holiday hits a little different this year, seek out special moments your brand can fully own, through things like exclusive holiday playlists and sponsorships. Pandora’s enhanced holiday stations Holiday Hits and Christmas Radio help get everyone into the holiday spirit.
  • Create brand messages that truly resonate with listeners during this unique season, with the right tone and content that they’re looking for.

Listening is the very foundation of Pandora, and we hope these data-backed insights we received from listening to our users provide worthwhile predictions to help make informed decisions in what will otherwise be a very unpredictable season.

Hear more about our 2020 Holiday playlists and stations created by our music curators here.


Source: Pandora Soundboard, Holiday Study, A18+ (N=2,353), September 16-23, 2020.