Understanding Radio & Music Genres

boninwf back stage nite 1 2012

I had to LOL the other day, literally.  One of the things I do almost daily anymore is create one sheets for bands to send to radio, tv, print, and buyers.  In each case, I have to take care to describe the music (as yet unheard) in ways that make sense to the person receiving the one sheet.

So, I got like three cds in a row where the band identified themselves as “indie” when in fact they were rock bands, with music based in early 90s alternative rock ala Nirvana/STP/Soundgarden, etc.  Most folks would wonder what I was laughing about – indie is after all an accepted term that means … exactly what to radio people like me?

Radio understands things differently than a person looking to put on a local city sponsored event who may not go out more than a couple of times a year, and whose only exposure to music is via traditional FM radio formats. These buyers tend to be over 40, and represents a fairly narrow target demographic audience that typically listens to radio that reinforces their nostalgic yearnings.

Try defining “indie,” “alternative,” or Americana to these folks.  How are they different from rock, blues, country, or funk?  How is tradtional Rhythm & Blues different from R&B in the modern urban contemporary context?  Hmmmm.  That’s a debate I actually had recently, with some professional music industry types here in Colorado.

Radio is programmed to attract specific audiences, measured demographically, and in some cases psycho-graphically (lifestyle analysis).

Here are the TOP music based stations in the Denver metro, with applicable format and audience targets

KQKS-FM aka Mix 107.5
Format: Urban Contemporary, Hip Hop/R&B
Primary target: Teens & Adult ages 20 to 24
Popular artists: Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, John Legend, Robin Thicke
NOTE: this station has been known to air some CO artist cuts by established acts.

KTCL-FM aka 93-3 The Adventure
Format: Alternative/Modern Rock
Primary target: Men, 18-34
Popular artists: Chevelle, 311, Blink 182
NOTE: this station does air and break some CO artist cuts / has local music show

Format: Modern Country
Primary target: adults/hvy female 25+
Popular artists: Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift
NOTE: this station has not shown evidence of playing any CO artist cuts

KBCO-FM aka 97.3 World Class Rock
Format: AAA (Adult Album Alternative)
Primary target: M/F 25-44
Popular artists: Dave Matthews, Ray Lamnotagne, Beck, Cold Play
NOTE: this station airs a wkly Sun nite local music program and supports CO bands that break out nationally.

Format: AC/Adult Contemporary
Primary target: Women / 25-54
Popular artists: Barry Manilow, Celine Dion, Katy Perry
NOTE: this station occasionally brings in local talent to showcase on the air, esp during the holidays

KALC-FM – aka “Alice”
Format: Hot AC/ Hot Adult Contemporary Hits
A more up-tempo, contemporary hits format, with no hard rock and no rap
Target: Adults/HVY FEM, ages 25 to 34
Popular artists: OneRepublic, the Fray, One Direction
NOTE: this station has occasionally supported local artists who have broken out nationally.

Format: AR/Album Rock/active rock
Mainstream rock & roll, which can include guitar-oriented “heavy metal”
Primary Target: Men ages 25 to 44
Popular artists: SevenDust, Metallica
NOTE: this station has a history of supporting local music in genre/format.

Block programming refers to “…programming content that appeals to various demographics in time blocks, usually corresponding to the top or bottom of the hour or the quarter-hour periods. For example, various musical genres might be featured; a country music hour; a three-hour afternoon block of jazz or a four-hour Saturday night ’70s disco show.” (wikiepedia)

This type of programming is representative of most community/public radio stations in the state, only two of which use uniform programming methodologies. KUNC (Greeley) uses a AAA format wrapped inside of mostly news and information programming, and KCFR in Denver, a news/information format.

Generally speaking, block programming does not work for commercial broadcast formats, where “…listeners expect a certain type of music when they tune into a radio station, and breaking from that format will turn those listeners away from the station; likewise, a station that airs its programming in hodgepodge blocks will have difficulty building listener loyalty, as listeners’ music will only be on for a few hours of the day.” (wikipedia)

Each of the following Colorado stations employ block programming
KGNU (Boulder)
KAFM (Grand Junction)
KCSU (Fort Collins)
KBUT (Crested Butte)
KDUR (Durango)
KVNF (Paonia)
KDNK (Carbondale)
KOTO (Telluride)



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Author: goat

I've been on the air in Northern Colorado since 1978. The Colorado Playlist is broadcast on 30 FM frequencies in the state. I am also a musician, talent buyer and business consultant. Email me at coloradoplaylist@gmail.com

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