Happy holidays to you and yours! We are back with another instalment of How To Go Viral With Your Music in 2023, and this month’s theme is CHRISTMAS music. In the third part of our series, we’ll be discussing all things original holiday music and cover song related, mashup inspo, and explore Christmas video trends to try over the holiday break. If you want more tips and tricks on how to go viral that aren’t holiday themed, check out Part 1 or Part 2 of the series. 

This month, the artist and writer behind our How To Go Viral series, Maya Malkin, shares some valuable pointers on holiday releases that she’s learned from putting out two successful Christmas songs over the past couple of years. So, if you’re interested in releasing an original festive song, or a holiday cover, here are a few things to cross off your Xmas (check)list. 

Photo: Nastco

Christmas Song Release Checklist 

✔️ Be Prepared

The most important thing to remember when releasing a Christmas song, whether it be an original or a cover, is to be prepared. This is a very seasonal-specific genre of music. It will only be relevant on the radio and streaming services for approximately two months of the year. However, I would highly recommend prepping your holiday release well in advance. There are a lot of opportunities for sync placements, playlists, and radio placements with holiday music, but for the most part, music supervisors, playlist curators, and radio programmers will be looking for Christmas songs months before the season begins. Some music curators are looking for songs for upcoming holiday films as early as May. If you can start pitching your song for sync, radio, and playlist consideration in the back end in advance, you will have a major leg up. 

✔️ Retain The Rights (If You Can)

Did you know that songs written before 1927 and earlier are considered part of the public domain? AKA, if you cover a Christmas song that is considered public domain, you will retain a significantly larger percentage of the song than if you’re only credited as a performer. Here is a brief list of some holiday songs written in 1927 or earlier:

  • Deck The Halls 
  • The First Noel 
  • Jingle Bells
  • Jolly Old St. Nicholas
  • O Christmas Tree
  • Silent Night
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

…and more! Another great way to retain the rights to your song is to write your own original holiday music. 

✔️ Submit To Independent Playlist Curators

It can be hard to get the attention of major playlist curators when you’re competing with the kings and queens of Christmas, like Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey. While it’s important to submit your song in the back end of streaming services for editorial playlist consideration, scoring an editorial placement is not the be-all and end-all. Submitting to independent playlist curators can help your music gain major traction as well. 

This year, I released a cover of “What Christmas Means To Me.” I silently put the song out on streaming platforms on November 16th, but didn’t start promo for it until December 1st. In those two weeks, I submitted the song for playlist consideration on a platform called SubmitHub. Of the 13 holiday playlists I submitted to on SubmitHub, only 2 curators approved my song. In the last week, one of those two playlists has garnered over 80k streams for my release, which was previously at 2k streams. My monthly listeners also went from a couple thousand to 50k in the span of a few days.

All this to say, it only takes one person to say “yes” to completely change the trajectory of your release. You never know what opportunity will lead you to your next win, so put yourselves out there on platforms like SubmitHub and try different things! The playlist that is currently boosting my streams is “Modern Christmas Songs 2023” curated by Jimmy G Márquez.

✔️ Be Original

People love a new twist on a song they already know or a unique addition to their holiday playlists. For example, if you were to cover one of the songs from the public domain list above, why not try making a hyper-pop version of “Deck The Halls”? Or an R&B version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? Whether it be the production, your voice, or the lyrics that make your version distinctive, bringing something new to the table will help your song stand out.

In 2021, I released a lover-scorned original Christmas song called “I Hope You Have A Horrible Christmas.” As the title might reveal, it was Grinch-like in subject matter and was actually deemed “too negative” by multiple playlist curators. However, 20th Digital/Disney just so happened to be releasing a holiday short titled “The Ugliest of Them All” that year, a film about an ugly Christmas sweater party, where a sudden turn of events causes Christmas chaos. My song ended up being a perfect fit for the short, and the next thing I knew I had a Disney placement.

Sync, radio, and playlist placements can get your song attention on a global scale. You can never please everyone, so even if your song isn’t the right fit for certain playlists or radio stations, it could find a home somewhere even bigger. Don’t be afraid to stand out! 

Want more insights on the holiday music universe? Be sure to check out our Artist’s Guide to Navigating the Holiday Music Industry

Trends To Try

Make A List (And Check It Twice 😌)

Christmas music is trending right now, so you can get more eyes on your social accounts by doing something like a “Top 10 Christmas Songs” list like Max Grabel. If you have a holiday cover or original song, you could always include it in the list and see if people notice or comment on it! Another fun way to count down to Christmas is to pick a holiday song a day until December 25th, to either perform like Matthew Ifield, dance to like Kevin Bannier, or include in your everyday content like Layla Eleni. Users interacting with your profile who are looking for Christmas content can help boost the organic traction on any other holiday content or music you are also promoting on your socials. 

Create A Festive Mashup or Remix 

If you’re a producer (or artist who wants to dabble), try your hand at a holiday mashup or remix. Make a techno or house version of a holiday classic, like Jesse Bloch does in this video. Mix two unexpected songs together, like Paris Lawrence did with “All I Want For Christmas” by Mariah Carey and “Crank That” by Soula Boy. Include a trending TikTok sound on a Christmas beat, like DJ Hunny Bee does with Ariana Grande’s “Santa Baby” instrumental and the hook from “Pound Town” by Sexxy Red and Tay Keith. Mash a few different Christmas songs together, like Cooper Alan does in this video (bonus points if you can sing them!). Don’t forget to put yourself or a friend on camera and make a TikTok or reel with your sound to help it get some traction.

Spread Holiday Cheer with Christmas Content

Last but not least, create Christmas content for your original music or cover song the same way you would if you were promoting a regular release but with a holiday twist! Whether that be singing it live by the fireplace, singing along over the recording in front of your Christmas tree, or performing the song outdoors in the snow. You can even take to the streets and get people’s reactions to the song, which is a popular trend on TikTok for artists trying to get traction on their songs or for their projects. 

There are endless ways to get creative this holiday season! Whether that be covering your favourite Christmas song and adding a unique twist, or creating a totally new and original track for the holidays. For your upcoming and future holiday releases, take note of our “Christmas Release Checklist” – plan ahead, get your song out there, and try something unique to stand out. As for content creation, get in the holiday spirit, think outside the box, and most importantly, as always, have fun with it! Plus, for more creative content ideas, check out our other “trends to try” sections in “How To Go Viral With Your Music” Part 1 and Part 2. Stay tuned for more additions to this series in upcoming months. Wishing you the happiest holidays from the RAC team! 

Written by Maya Malkin
Illustration by Holly Li