This article originally appeared on Haulix.
If the calendar wasn’t enough a reminder, then the falling temperatures have surely alerted you that the holiday season is officially upon us. Some of you have probably witnessed advertisements featuring Santa Claus already, and if you haven’t, I can guarantee that you will soon enough.
Every year, we see artists of all sizes from every genre imaginable try to leverage love of the holidays with cover songs intended to boost interest in an otherwise slow time for the industry. Some of those efforts works better than others, but we encourage them all the same.
Fans love having new material to enjoy, even if it’s a cover song of a holiday classic that has already been covered numerous time before. After all, no one has ever done it quite the way you would do something, so you should never let the fact others have attempted something similar stop you from showcasing what sets you apart.
There are two ways to approach cover songs: You can pay for the rights to use a song owned by someone else, or you can cover a song currently in the public domain without paying a dime. We suggest the latter, which is why we scoured the internet in search of holiday classics that you can cover for free. The results of that search can be found below.
Here is a list of holiday songs currently in the public domain:
- “Angels We Have Heard On High”
- “Auld Lang Syne”
- “Away In The Manger”
- “Deck The Halls”
- “The First Noel”
- “Go Tell It On The Mountain”
- “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
- “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”
- “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”
- “I Saw Three Ships”
- “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
- “Jingle Bells”
- “Joy To The World”
- “Come All Ye Faithful”
- “O Holy Night”
- “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”
- “Silent Night”
- “There’s a Song In The Air”
- “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
- “Up On The Housetop”
- “We Three Kings"
- “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”
- “What Child Is This?“
Many classic Christmas songs that are presumed to be in the public domain are in fact copyrighted, so make sure to double-check your sources before deciding a track is public domain. PDInfo Online is a good starting point if the liner notes and copyright information are unavailable. Here are just a few notable songs that would require a mechanical license.
Christmas Songs not in the public domain
- “Winter Wonderland” (Written by: Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith)
- “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
- “Sleigh Ride” (Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish)
- “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin)
- “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
- “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin)
- “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne)
- “Jingle Bell Rock” (Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe)
- “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks)
- “Little Drummer Boy” (Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone)
- “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” (Edward Pola, George Wyle)
- “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram)
- “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” (Johnny Marks)
- “Silver Bells” (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
- “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano)
- “Frosty The Snowman” (Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rollins)
- “A Holly Jolly Christmas” (Johnny Marks)
- “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” (Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman)
- “Carol Of The Bells” (Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich)
There is no question that some of the songs mentioned above have been reinterpreted by so many artists that putting an original spin on proceedings seems impossible, but it’s often the most challenging of endeavors that prove to be the most fruitful. By taking a holiday classic like the ones above and making it your own you’re further engaging already devoted followers while simultaneously creating an amazing opportunity to reach new fans.
The holiday season generates a large amount of sales and internet searches for seasonal music, and with proper tagging your efforts will reach countless new listeners who could very quickly be converted into fans.
James Shotwell is Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix.