Basically, radio format is a marketing tool. Different formats are used to attract a certain part of the audience. When the first music radio stations appeared they just played music for everyone, but as many new music genres and styles emerged in the 50s, radio stations started specializing in a certain type of music to listen, and thus winning loyal listeners with specific tastes. Further development of the music industry brought changes to radio formats, as modern ones appeared and some became obsolete or evolved into the new. The most popular formats today are Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Hit Radio and Album-Oriented Rock.
Adult contemporary (AC) is oriented on people aged 25 to 49. This age group is considered to have the largest income; this is why this format is commercially successful. Besides, as shown by the surveys, this format is preferred by a large part of the female audience. Two main types of AC are Oldie-Based AC (music of the 70s and 80s with inclusions of contemporary hits) and New AC (mostly contemporary music).
The subformats include Soft AC concentrated on soft and mellow music with lots of romantic ballads, and Hot AC, which has more rhythmic music to listen. However, none of these are focused on hit music from charts, since AC is destined for adult people, rather than teenagers. Adult contemporary DJs are concise and unobtrusive, mostly announcing time and song titles. You are likely to find your favorite music on Adult Contemporary stations if you like singers like Sting, Chris Rea, Madonna or George Michael.
Another popular format is Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR). The main idea of this radio format is playing only the songs that are popular right now. CHR stations usually play a very short list of tracks (around 50) and repeat the most popular very often. Today many European CHR stations tend to increase the amount of songs they play by adding a small number of hits of the 90s or even 80s. CHR stations are aimed at teenagers and younger adult people aged under 24.
The airplay of CHR stations is very dynamic, with lots of jingles. DJs are very upbeat and snappish, mostly speaking during the intro and outro of a song. However, lively and dynamic radio shows are very popular within this format. The major subdivisions of this format are: CHR/pop (includes most songs with high chart positions), CHR/dance (playing dance songs and remixes of the popular hits) and CHR/urban (focusing on R&B and hip-hop).
Album-Oriented Rock (AOR) is concentrated on album tracks by major rock groups and artists, whether or not these songs enjoy mass popularity and high chart positions. This format appeared in the
Less widespread radio formats include Alternative, Dance, Oldies, Smooth Jazz, World Music, and many others (the names speak for themselves). Some of the formats are only available in certain countries of the world. Of course, with the modern technology there's no need for music search on the radio. You can take your MP3 player when on travel and always have your favorite music to listen wherever you go. But why not tune in to local radio stations and find out what music people listen to around the world? There's no doubt it will be an exciting journey, and, maybe, you will find some new cool music to listen.