So this is Christmas, and what have we done?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012
by davidaw
filed under Trends and Data
Comments: 3

Well since you asked, we’ve been playing with some Christmas scrobbling data to see how our users’ listening habits change around the festive season. I created a data set of Christmas tracks based on the top tracks tagged with “christmas” which were released before scrobble 0 in 2002. This gave me list of “all time Christmas greats” which are unlikely to be particularly affected by annual variation. These include:

  • Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas Is You
  • Bing Crosby – White Christmas
  • Wham! – Last Christmas
  • Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
  • Dean Martin – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
  • Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock
  • The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
  • Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I think you’ll agree that they’re all songs that you hear a lot of during December and not a lot during the rest of the year.

With that in place, I attempted to answer an age old question suggested to me by our good friend and founder RJ, “Does Christmas really get earlier every year?” – a question which refers to the perceptual creep of seasonal products, music and decoration further and further towards the summer each year. I normalised the scrobble volume in the run up to Christmas by the Christmas Eve volume for each year to yield a comparable listening curve for each year. I chose the point at which listening volume becomes 50% of the December 24th volume to call “the start of Christmas”, then compared that date across all the years for which we have complete and reliable scrobble data (2005-2011).

The result was a weak trend in the opposite direction, suggesting that in fact Christmas might in fact be getting later each year by as much as one day each year. This graph shows the difference between the listening curve for 2005 and 2011:

During the initial graphing for the above, Elliot noticed that without the 7-day moving average the graph looked a little like a Christmas tree on its side with the day-of-week variation creating the branches. Pursuing this I made a concept for a “Scrobble tree”, which I then handed to Graham – one of our design team – and he worked his magic to produce this awesome Christmas card.

If that’s not enough festive cheer for you, then you should check out created by web developer Marek. It shows data about the current Christmas music being listened to and a live indicator of what percentage Christmas it is right now.

Merry Christmas everybody!


  1. Jonathan Marks
    18 December, 22:49

    Fascinating. Got the feeling the shops were pushing Xmas much earlier (like as from September) but we’re getting later and later to get the message. Perhaps we’re hoping for last minute crisis sales. In Holland, we’re going to get them!

    Jonathan Marks – 18 December, 22:49
  2. wewewe
    19 December, 08:04

    Also – thanks for the Xmas gift of not having my radio… yay kthx :/

    wewewe – 19 December, 08:04
  3. suzanne
    18 January, 00:33

    Fabulous post! Let me just share with you a great iOS app for all music fans out there. ClipClock is the best new iPhone app for music fans, where you can see the most shared music videos from friends and others! It’s the ultimate hub for great moments and the latest music video releases! Download here directly from the app store! Check it out now at

    suzanne – 18 January, 00:33

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