These retailers have already started playing christmas music electricity projects for high school students


There’s a line from a Raymond Chandler novel in which hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe surveys the scene along Hollywood Boulevard and grumbles that stores were "already beginning to fill up with overpriced Christmas junk, and the daily papers were beginning to scream about how terrible it would be if you didn’t get your Christmas shopping done early. It would be terrible anyway; it always is."

In Tampa Bay malls and elsewhere across the U.S., Christmas 2017 has arrived, visually. The massive sleigh and fake-snow-covered trees for Santa’s Flight Academy at International Plaza have occupied floor space since before Halloween, and holiday decor began this week at Westshore Plaza in Tampa. The city’s decorations are up along St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue.

More subtle is the creep of Christmas music into our ears. Tampa Bay’s b98.7 FM flipped to 24-hour Christmas music on Monday, and they’re kind of late. According to industry news site Radio Insite, the nation’s first station of 2017 to flip to all Christmas, all the time was New Jersey’s Easy 93.1, which has been jingle bell rocking since Oct. 20.

In stores, the switch to holiday music can be carefully calculated to gradually immerse you in that warm bath of Christmas cheer. Walmart, for instance, starts Nov. 14 when it begins "sprinkling" holiday music into its regular mix, then gradually increases the ratio until they’re 100 percent I’ll Be Home for Christmas-ing by Black Friday.

Target has, for most of its history, not played any music at all in its thousands of stores, holiday or otherwise. That changed this year as 180 newly-remodeled stores introduced background music. They’ll flip to holiday tunes on Black Friday (all of the company’s Tampa Bay stores remain totally music-free).

For the past few years, a great internet debate has raged on Twitter in early November. That’s when those who can’t seem to wait any longer admit proudly or sheepishly that they’re already listening to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.

They collide with the "it’s not even Thanksgiving!" hardliners who are there to let you know they’re angry about unwanted ear cheer, judging anyone who’s enjoying it. One popular line in the sand seems to be Thanksgiving, the date many deem appropriate for earliest Christmas music listening.

The southern California-based grocery store chain Stater Bros. was the only retailer we could find that waits all the way until December to start. Meanwhile, Best Buy began mixing in holiday tunes on Oct. 22, the earliest of any retailer that would reveal their plans.

Starbucks actually employs two people whose job is to curate the Spotify playlists played in all its coffee shops. That company, by the way, keeps its holiday music plans under tighter wraps than even the design of its hotly-awaited holiday cups. Dunkin Donuts offers franchisees a subscription to Dunkin Radio, where programmers with decades of experience in "background music programming" match music to the feel of Dunkins in different U.S. regions.

There’s good news for Grinches : there’s a trend toward less holiday music. Danny Turner, a programming executive with Mood Media, which curates and provides music for large retailers, says stores are blending holiday music with non-holiday music. Some are waiting later to start it, and some stores are choosing to go with very little, or none at all.

"Some of those folks look at it as making their store a welcome respite from the onslaught," Turner said. They’re also thinking more about store associates who ultimately hear the music more than anyone, Turner said, because "if they’re not happy, nobody’s going to be happy."