Radio formats cover a myriad of music styles, topics and any other subject matter that can be broadcast through radio. Naturally, the major genres of music (rock, punk, classical, country, rap, alternative, etc.) comprise a large percentage of radio formatting over the airwaves and Internet, but with so many people able to add their own, unique formatting blends with Internet radio, a wider variety of formats can be found today. Also, it is not uncommon for station formatting to include multiple genres as long as they are all targeting a similar listenership.
Here are some of the more popular radio station formats.
Talk Radio – a fairly large group of programming formats, this could include news stations, talk shows, sports shows and programming on any subject that an audience can be gathered for. Today there are talk stations on just about anything including pet health, cooking, children’s educational programming, political debates, etc. This type of format usually involves some type of email-in or call-in feature to allow interaction from listeners, so this is something to keep in mind when planning this type of station.
Adult-Oriented – While there are many styles of music to choose from, the main idea in adult formats is that it is music that will appeal to those who are no longer teenagers. Also, adult-targeted stations tend to play more than just the Top 40 hits, exploring more of what is available by the same artists. Some sub formats include contemporary, alternative, oldies, jazz, rock and classic rock.
Rock and Alternative – Probably the biggest grouping of radio formats, there is rock and alternative music style for every taste out there. Depending on the station format, programmers can utilize multiple genres or just one, though much rock music seems to cross genres, giving programmers more to work with. Hard rock, classic rock, coffeehouse alternative, adult alternative, punk rock, heavy metal and Americana are all formats classified under rock, and there are many more besides those.
Ethnic, International and World – Music genres of many types originating from other countries or played in the style of those ethnic genres. Ethnic and International music is both popular and traditional music played to audiences of those genres. World music on the other hand, is music played by any musicians in combinations of styles of ethnic and International genres and aimed at all audiences. Examples of ethnic and international formats would be Latin and Hispanic rock stations, Indian classical music stations, African traditional music stations and more. World Music station examples include mixed format stations playing multiple ethnic genres, new age stations, some meditation and relaxation stations, etc.
Oldies and Standards – This is formatting which plays music of multiple genres that are considered to be older, and more nostalgic, to various age groups. “Oldies” is typically defined as programming from the 50′s through the 80′s – excluding classic rock - while “standards” includes Big Band hits, crooners, traditional jazz of the era (as opposed to contemporary jazz) and popular music from the 20′s up through the 50′s.
Modern Rock – Typically this format covers music and topics that are current and popular today (within the last 5 to 10 years) and leans toward alternative in style. This format covers a number of genres already included within others such as Adult Alternative and Alt Rock, but it does not usually include hard rock, metal or anything particularly hard. Modern rock format generally fits between rock and alternative in genres and caters to the listenership that also bridges that gap and listens to some of the others as well.
Though this list barely scratches the surface of the number of formats used today, it provides a good idea as to how formatting is categorized. By deciding on format, Internet radio station owners are able to pinpoint their target audience and provide the programming that audience wants most. Be sure to explore what stations already exist as there are some truly interesting and creative radio formats and genres which can be used as examples and may inspire you to come up a great idea!