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Christmas Music – What You Can & Can’t Use In Commercials

UPDATED: Dec 2021


There are many great Christmas songs that we know and love....

.... and then there’s Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’!

At Christmas time, there is no shortage of brands who want to use Christmas music in their commercials. But while Christmas music is great for creating a feeling of nostalgia, magic, and wonder, not every song is in the public domain – and therefore can’t be used without permission. 

Christmas Music That Can (And Can't) Be Used In Advertising

Christmas music that is in the public domain and can be used for commercial purposes includes:

  • Jingle Bells
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • Joy To The World
  • The Twelve Days Of Christmas
  • Deck The Halls
  • Angels We Have Heard On High

Music that is under copyright and cannot be used without permission includes:

  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
  • Here Comes Santa Claus
  • It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas
  • Jingle Bell Rock

Here is a comprehensive list of Christmas music that is in the public domain, along with songs that are still under copyright.

Reworking Known Carols

The 2021 Myer Christmas commercial

This year, Myer dropped their jingle in favor of a version of Joy To The World, with their 'Unriddle Christmas' campaign.
Featuring a variety of Australians in different situations, the commercial takes a traditional Christmas carol (in the public domain) and turns it on its head. Interestingly, Myer was still able to integrate their 'Myer Is My Store' tagline in the form of a melodic sonic trigger at the end of the spot.

We have also re-imagined traditional Christmas carols for clients who have written their own lyrics and want to run Christmas jingles in the lead-up to Christmas. Here are the 2020 (Deck The Halls) and 2021 (Jingle Bells) Christmas radio advertising jingles produced for a Queensland construction company.

Love them or hate them, there's no doubt that using a well-known Christmas song leverages the fact that people know the tune and can easily sing along. However, it's important that the song is in the public domain, and therefore is not breaching copyright.

Copyright Is Not Always Straight Forward

The public domain is defined as covering 'all creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, waived, or be inapplicable.' For musical work that is covered by copyright, protection usually lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. However, it is not always clear-cut. This blog discusses the specifics of how long copyright protection lasts.

Please contact us if you’d like to use a particular Christmas song in your Christmas marketing, and we can confirm if it’s available for use. We may even have a version of the song in our music library that can be used in your project.


Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

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