We’ve now entered the time of year where most businesses start thinking about their holiday sales, promotions, and for bars and restaurants that means holiday party bookings as well. And along with the decorations and the marketing promotions, that means it’s time to think about your holiday music programming too.

For some people, it seems like a no brainer. We’re nearing Thanksgiving? Turn on the holiday tunes! But there’s a lot more careful consideration that needs to go into your holiday music programming to create the best guest experience you possibly can. The music in your bar or restaurant is all about setting the mood and creating an atmosphere that makes your guests feel comfortable and which accurately reflects your brand. Customers are looking for that warm, fuzzy feeling that reminds them of their best holiday memories, and since music is such a powerful tool to effect mood, it’s important to make sure you’re using that tool correctly. With that in mind, here’s our guide of the essential steps to playing holiday music in your business:

The main questions many people have regarding holiday music in their business are: When do I start? How much should I play? What kind of music should I play? So let’s start with the when in this equation.

Retail businesses, although you might not realize it, do hospitality venues a big favor in this regard. Many stores are putting out their holiday displays before Halloween has even arrived, let alone Thanksgiving, and although this may prompt eyerolling from many of their patrons, it does subtly prep your guests for that holiday atmosphere. So that being considered, most bars and restaurants should start playing holiday music sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Of course, your mileage may vary, but many of your guests will come to expect it. That of course leads to the question, how much holiday music should we be playing then?

Our recommendation for frequency of holiday music in your playlists: start with 2 songs an hour as long as we’re in November. For most guests in a hospitality venue, that will guarantee they’ll hear at least one holiday song during their stay. But just as important as playing holiday music, is not playing too much. Not only do you risk the eyerolling reaction many people have when overwhelmed with early festive cheer, but you have to think about your employees as well. As much as music helps shape the guest experience, so does any interaction guests have with your staff, and you don’t want staff burnt out on holiday music that’s ruining their mood. As you get into December, we recommend increasing the holiday songs in your playlist to 3 or 4 an hour, and then continuing to increase that amount the closer you get to the holiday.

Last, but very far from least, what kind of holiday music should you play? If we’re talking November, and you’re just dipping your toes into the pool of holiday music, try playing something non-traditional. Control Play’s library includes curated “Holiday (Not Holiday)” songs that may be seasonally relevant but are very far from the same traditional carols we’re all used to. You can learn more about our favorite Holiday (Not Holiday) songs here. Abstaining from the traditional holiday classics early on also gives them more emotional weight when you do play them. We suggest adding more holiday classics to your playlist the closer you get to the holiday. The other important thing to remember is having your holiday music match the genre mix of your regular playlists. Whether it’s holiday rock, pop, R&B, country, oldies, crooners, hip-hop… the list could go on forever, but whatever genres you usually play, there are holiday tunes to match.

Follow these tips, and we promise your bar or restaurant is in for the best holiday music experience ever!

Andrew with santa HatAnd if you’d like some help tweaking your playlists for the festive season, click here. We love to help. Happy holidays!

Andrew Moss

Andrew Moss

Andrew Moss is a Playlist Specialist at Control Play, passionate about helping thousands of bars, restaurants, bowling centers, family entertainment centers and more create the ideal music atmosphere for their business. When not working with business owners looking to create a stellar guest atmosphere, Andrew enjoys sipping a cold Alexander Keith’s and listening to Rolling Stones records. Andrew has previously worked as a radio DJ, music reviewer, and band manager.

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Bowling Center Playlist
  • RETRO BOWLING PARTY
  • 90S BOWLING PARTY
  • ADRENALINE [13+/18+]
  • OLDIE BUT A GOODIE
  • ENERGY!
  • FEELIN’ GOOD [13+/18+]
  • MILLENIAL THROWBACKS
  • LEAGUE MIX [ALL/13+/18+]
  • COSMIC PARTY [ALL/13+/18+]
  • PATIO
  • ROCK & BOWL
  • COLLEGE BOWLING NIGHT
Christian PACK Playlists
  • CHRISTAIN A/C [ALL]
  • CHRISTIAN ENERGY [ALL]
  • CHRISTIAN HIP-HOP [13+]
  • CHRISTIAN HITS [ALL]
  • CHRISTIAN MIX [ALL]
  • CHRISTIAN MIX [18+]
  • CHRISTIAN ROCK [13+]
DECADES Playlists
  • 1960s MIX
  • 1970s DISCO
  • 1970s MIX
  • 1970s-1990s HITS
  • 1980s MIX
  • 1980s PARTY
  • 1990s MIX
  • 1990s PARTY
  • 2000s MIX
  • 2000s PARTY
  • 2010s MIX
Family PACK Playlists
  • FAMILY MIX [ALL]
  • FAMILY MIX [13+]
  • KIDS MOVIE [ALL]
  • KIDZONE [ALL]
  • KIDZONE BIRTHDAY[ALL]
  • KIDZONE DAYCARE [ALL]
  • TEEN PARTY [13+]
FEC PACK Playlists
  • ADRENALINE [13+/18+]
  • CAFÉ
  • ENERGY! [13+/18+]
  • FEELIN’ GOOD [13+/18+]
  • MILLENIAL THROWBACKS
  • ALL DAY PARTY [ALL/13+/18+]
  • 80s RETRO PARTY
  • 90s PARTY
GAMEDAY PACK PLAYLIST
  • GAMEDAY
  • GAMEDAY-Courtside
  • GAMEDAY-Country
  • GAMEDAY-Retro
  • POST-GAME PARTY
  • TAILGATE
GENRE Playlists
  • A/C
  • A/C HOT
  • A/C URBAN
  • 2K COUNTRY
  • COUNTRY GOLD
  • COUNTRY HITS
  • COUNTRY MIX
  • NEW COUNTRY
  • RED DIRT COUNTRY
  • 1980S-1990S COUNTRY Mix
  • DANCE 90s/00s
  • DANCE CLASSICS
  • DEEP HOUSE
  • EDM
  • LATIN
  • LATIN REGIONAL
  • LATIN URBAN
  • OLDIES
  • BIG BAND
  • HITS CLASSICS
  • HITS
  • MEGA-HITS
  • ONE-HIT WONDERS
  • RHYTHMIC
  • TOP 40 CHART
  • HIP-HOP
  • HIP-HOP 2K
  • HIP-HOP CLASSICS
  • 2K ROCK
  • 70s ROCK
  • 80s HAIRBAND
  • 80s ROCK
  • 90s ROCK
  • ALT 2K
  • ALTERNATIVE
  • CLASSIC ROCK
  • HARD ROCK
  • INDIE
  • INDIE CHILL
  • INDIE MIX
  • ROCK
  • ROCK GOLD
  • TRIPLE-A
  • CLASSIC JAZZ
  • SMOOTH JAZZ
  • R&B
  • R&B CHILL
  • R&B MIX
Holiday Playlists

Holiday Playlists:

  • Family Holiday
  • Holiday Party
  • Kidzone Holiday
  • Traditional Holiday
  • R&B Holiday
  • Country Holiday
  • Holiday Crooners
  • Holiday Pop
  • Retro Holidays
  • Holiday Rock
  • Hip-Hop Holiday
  • Holiday “Not Holiday

Holiday + Playlists

  • Holidays + Bar Day Mix
  • Holidays + Bar Night Mix
  • Holidays + Classic Rock Mix
  • Holidays + Country
  • Holidays + Happy Hour
  • Holidays + Hits
  • Holidays + Party Hits
Jump Parks Playlist
  • ADRENALINE [13+/18+]
  • FAMILY JUMP
  • FEELIN’ GOOD [13+/18+]
  • HIP-HOP JUMP
  • JUMP ENERGY! [13+/18+]
  • JUMP PARTY [13+/18+]
  • MILLENIAL THROWBACKS
  • ROCK SHOW
Restaurant, Bar & Pub Pack Playlist
  • BAR DAY
  • BAR NIGHT
  • CLUB MIX
  • FEELIN’ GOOD [13+/18+]
  • HAPPY HOUR
  • KICKIN’ COUNTRY
  • MUSIC & MIMOSAS
  • ALL DAY PARTY [13+/18+]
  • PATIO
  • PUB MIX
  • PUB ROCK
  • THE CLASSIC RECIPE
  • THE LUNCH CROWD [13+/18+]
  • THE MIX: DAY
  • THE MIX: NIGHT
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Roller Skating Playlists
  • SIP-N-SKATE
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  • SK8 FAMILY NIGHT (3HR] [ALL/13+]
  • SK8 OLD SKOOL
  • 70 DISCO SK8 PARTY
  • 80’S SK8 PARTY
  • 90’S SK8 PARTY
  • ADRENALINE [13+/18+]
  • FAMILY FAST
  • FAMILY SK8 PARTY
  • FEC TOP 100
  • FEELIN’ GOOD [13+/18+]
  • FUNKY & GROOVY SK8 PARTY
  • MILLENIAL THROWBACKS
  • SHUFFLE SK8
  • TINY TOTS SK8 PARTY
  • WEEKEND SK8 PARTY
  • TEEN PARTY SK8
Themed Bar Pack Playlists
  • BEACH BAR
  • BEACH BAR PARTY
  • BLUES JAM
  • BRIT ROCK
  • COCKTAILS & CROONERS
  • LADIES NIGHT
  • PRIDE PARTY
  • SOUL SUNDAY
Themed Playlists
  • CANADA DAY
  • HOLIDAYS
  • HOLIDAYS KIDZONE
  • HOLIDAYS PARTY
  • HOLIDAYS TRADITIONAL
  • CINCO DE MAYO
  • HALLOWEEN
  • 4TH OF JULY
  • MARCH MADNESS MIX
  • MARDI GRAS
  • MOTHER’S DAY
  • OKTOBERFEST
  • PRIDE PARTY
  • ST. PATRICK’S
  • ST. PATRICK’S PARTY
  • CHRISTMAS IN JULY
  • SUMMER RETRO SIZZLER
  • SUMMER SIZZLER
  • ANTI-VALENTINE’S DAY
  • LOVE CLASSICS
  • VALENTINE’S DAY