Latin Music Week

Here's What the 2014 Holiday Music Sales Spike Looks Like

Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Avi Kaplan, Kristie Maldonado, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix perform at The Grove's 12th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Spectacular Presented By Citi at The Grove on November 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  

Every holiday season, the debate begins in earnest: When is it okay to start listening to seasonal music? Some say Christmas music isn't kosher until after Thanksgiving weekend, while others wait until the very last moment. Some overzealous fans, on the other hand, start listening to Xmas tunes even before their Halloween pumpkins have started to rot.

While we're not going to take a side in the Great Holiday Music Debate, we can shed some (red-and-green LED) light on when people start buying Christmas music. Using data from Nielsen Music, we created a line graph to represent the rise in holiday album purchasing, from the slow and steady increases in October to the massive spike that happens around Thanksgiving.

In the graph above, we're comparing the number of holiday albums sold each week to the overall number of albums sold each week. 

For the first week on our graph (ending Sept. 28), sales are understandably minor -- only 14,000 units of holiday albums (digital and physical) were sold. But as early as the week ending Oct. 5, that number had more than doubled -- 37,000 holiday albums sold, according to Nielsen Music.

A mere three weeks later (week ending Oct. 26), people are buying 151,000 copies of holiday albums in a week -- and that's before Halloween has arrived.

Regardless, that total isn't much when compared to the overall album sales for the week ending Oct. 26. Nearly 4.5 million albums were sold that week, of which holiday albums accounted for only 3 percent.

Christmas Music for People Who Hate Christmas Music

However, if you fast-forward another three weeks, holiday albums are moving more than half a million copies. For the week ending Nov. 16, holiday records make up approximately 9 percent of all album sales.

In other words, holiday album sales are already exploding well before Thanksgiving. It's not just department store soundsystems welcoming the holiday season -- it's the album-buying public, too.

The week of Thanksgiving, holiday albums sold in excess of a million copies in one week. Yes, overall album sales increased that week, but so did the percentage of Christmas albums sold. For the week ending Nov. 30, holiday albums accounted for 17 percent of all album sales.

The week after Thanksgiving, album sales experienced an overall drop. Holiday album sales, however, didn't dip -- they just experienced a slower growth than usual.

As of the most recent sales week (ending Dec. 14), holiday albums sold more than 1.5 million units, accounting for a substantial 19 percent of overall album sales. As a point of comparison, total R&B/Hip-Hop album sales accounted for 14 percent of overall album sales for that same week. 

This Week's Best-Selling Holiday Albums

Next, let's look at the best-selling holiday album of 2014: That's Christmas to Me, the latest holiday release from a cappella group Pentatonix. Released Oct. 21, the album moved a respectable 32,000 copies in its debut week. The next two weeks saw it drop in sales, but things started to change mid-November.

For the week ending Nov. 16, Pentatonix's TCTM sold 34,000 copies -- that's more than it did in its debut week, a rarity for any non-holiday album. It sold nearly triple that amount the following week, and for the week ending Nov. 30, it moved a massive 217,000 copies. That means for every 100 holiday albums sold during Thanksgiving week, approximately 18 of those were Pentatonix's That's Christmas to Me. That's a nice early Christmas present for the viral YouTube stars.

What about you? When do you start buying Christmas albums, and is that different from when you start listening to Christmas albums? Let us know in the comments below.