Are We Being Manipulated by Music?

I saw this chart a few days ago and something really struck me. The songs we hear each Christmas — aside from the religious hymns — are almost all from the 1940’s and 50’s. The interesting point made at the bottom of the chart got me thinking. A lot of times we listen to the same music around Christmas because it produces a feeling of nostalgia and memories of a time when we were younger and the Christmas spirit meant more than a little break from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. A lot of the “new” Christmas music that isn’t the old religious standards, is merely nothing more than updated versions of these songs, rather than creating entirely new Christmas songs.

Now, if I’m being a bit more cynical — here’s how I read this.

Every year, the entertainment industry reinvigorates Christmas nostalgia so that people from the Baby Boomer generation will feel nostalgic for their childhood — and perhaps that Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Then, out of this reinvigorated nostalgia, they go out and spend all kinds of money on their kids/grandkids/neighborhood kids/intern pastors as the church they visit in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it like none other.

But I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t all a big ploy to get more people in the “Christmas spirit” which might as well be synonymous with “the mood to spend money”. I can’t figure out exactly why I am so disturbed by this graph.

Perhaps, it’s just a tactic to honestly get everyone in the Christmas spirit of gathering together with family and friends and honoring the faith traditions that celebrate around Christmas. But I highly doubt it. Whenever there is the kind of money at stake that there is each Christmas, big companies will beg, cheat, lie, steal — even, potentially, manipulate through music.

After writing this, I realize this could make me the biggest Scrooge that you know, which is certainly not my intent. I just think it’s interesting the way in which Christmas music operates in our culture, pumped through the stores earlier and earlier each year.

And I think it’s really beneficial to be aware of the way in which music impacts the way we think.



  1. I don’t doubt that you’re right about playing Christmas music earlier and earlier so that our minds our set on the Christmas season earlier so we start buying earlier. The more time we think about Christmas, the more time there is to buy for Christmas.

    But don’t you and I, not part of the baby boomer generation, get caught up in the same spending spirit? I just think there’s a little bit TOO much conspiracy theorizing going on here. I think you’re on track but maybe pushing it a little.

    And that graph is really what prompted that? What’s really going on here, Mr. Clapp? HA!

  2. Haha. Maybe working with all of these retired baby boomers is starting to get to me.

    And it’s true that people all ages get caught up in the spending spirit. I was trying to think of new, secular Christmas songs and just can’t really think of any. There are some new religious ones (Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven”, some of Dave Barnes’ stuff) but they aren’t as widespread.

    I don’t know what it is, man. But something just strikes me as off about it. But I could just be a cynic too.

    • Of course you’re a cynic, that’s what I like about you. And I’m a big cynic, too. But you know I gotta push back a little.

      But you’re right, there is no new Christmas music and I wonder about why that is, too. Part of it is, I think, I don’t really like to hear a ton of the old stuff so why would I want to hear any new stuff. I get really sick of Christmas music really fast. And maybe that’s because I don’t hear anything new, I don’t know.

  3. I love Christmas music. It all gets me in the mood for Christmas. The tricky part is not getting caught up in the consumerism rampant in our culture.

    What bothers me is everyone “pumping” the music in public before advent even begins.

    I did appreciate a sign I saw at Nordstroms. It said something like, “We will not be decorating our store for Christmas before Thanksgiving. We like to celebrate one Holiday at a time.”

    • Go Nordstroms! That’s excellent. And I really like Christmas music as well. I hate to be the cynic, but I just wonder if it’s being used in some kind of psychological way that’s deeper than the subliminal “buy a lot of stuff” message sent. I don’t know. Still playing around with these things. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I might use that Nordstroms bit next year when I hear “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” at Halloween.

  4. I have to side with you, Eric.

    When I got into the health & wellness industry I was informed that it was the fastest growing industry in the world, and it started with baby boomers. When you trace the lifespan of a typical baby boomer, from birth till now, it seems clear to me that they have controlled other areas of our economy. (Diapers, fast food industry, etc.)

    So when I look at the graph it is both frightening and interesting to think about what else the baby boomer generation has controlled – that affects the rest of the worlds generations and generations to come.

    Without a doubt, your idea that the music played controls the brain on spending more money may be seen as far-reached… but it makes sense to me that it would have a subliminal effect.

Please keep your comments positive. I reserve the right to delete rude or insulting comments. If your comment is critical, please make sure it is also constructive. Thank you.

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