FREEFORM This could be called formless, it's where the DJ is allowed to play any kind of music with no fixed format to adhere to. It can include any kind of music, even in the same time period. The Freeform format is common in BBC local radio stations and also markets where formatted radio has not become very competitive.
GLAM A form of rock, Glam evolved from a few British artistes who dressed glamourously in the early 70s to perform pop-rock. David Bowie was the proponent and best known and he has proved to be one of the longest lasting, but others associated with glam rock included Marc Bolan, T Rex, The Sweet, Elton John, The New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople, Mud and Slade.
These artistes paved the way for Punk and Hair Metal. Sub genres of Glam include Garage, Psychedelic, Rockabilly, Surf and the founders of the genre, British Invasion. The Glamrock JunkShop epitomises the movement with their 'Bopping with the Ballrooms of Mars' and 'Bubblegum Rock' programmes.
GOSPEL Christian influenced music, often up-tempo and with a large choir either leading or backing the vocals. Gospel is a traditional music genre as well as a radio format. Among the many sub-genres of gospel radio format are Southern Gospel, Contemporary, Adult Black Gospel, traditional, inspirational, contemporary hit gospel and rock gospel. One of the best and most easily accessible examples of a gospel radio station is 'Mexican Soul Food', which is available terrestrially and online.
HARD ROCK This is the format for rock fans who like to feel their music loud, somewhere up past mark 11 on the volume control! From Black Sabbath to Metallica; Led Zeppelin to Foo Fighters; Van Halen to Tool. Sizzling guitars and thumping drums, often augmented by powerful blasts on Korg Keyboards. There are at least a few hundred hard rock stations online and at least two on the FM dial. Hard Rock has spun off its own sub-genres; Jam, Prog / Art Rock and Psychedelic to name but a few.
HEAVY METAL A very popular sub-genre of Metal, (see below) Heavy Metal now has around 60 online radio stations and two FM outlets playing the sub-genre. Heavy Metal has its origins in blues and includes artistes such as Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
HIP-HOP Hip hop music is often called rap music. It is a music genre of very stylised rhythmic music over which artistes usually chant. Hip-Hop is a sub-culture which incorporates beatboxing (making instrumental sounds with the mouth into a microphone) and MCing as well as occasionally graffiti painting while doing so!
HOLIDAY An alternative name for the format of playing predominantly Christmas music, usually as a temporary format aimed at shop or restaurant operators to run up to the Christmas holidays.
HOT ADULT AC There are now several different versions of Hot AC in use. It originally meant stations playing current hit music that is more energetic or upbeat than the average Adult Contemporary station, but over the last five years has increasingly meant stations that play a larger proportion of the very latest releases. Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart includes new releases played on rock oriented CHR stations as well as Hot AC stations.
HOUSE A sub-genre of electronic dance music that has heavy bass chords and its origins in Chicago. The sound has repetitive 4/4 beats, lots of off-beat hi-hats and urgent pounding basslines. The style was popularised by MARRS, S Express, Grandmaster Flash and Sylvester, who each had huge hits in many countries with the genre. Its popularity continues with the likes of Robin Schulz and Duke Dumont and there are several dozen house music based radio stations around the world.
INSPIRATIONAL The music genre 'inspirational' is generally slow, soft, peaceful and usually instrumental music. Calm, melodic and designed to relax its listeners and inspire fresh thoughts. There are many examples on Soundcloud.The radio format known as Inspirational contains elements of Blues, Country and Jazz, and is designed to uplift and motivate. Music that makes you 'feel good' and inspires! It is a sub-genre of Christian radio programming that is increasingly popular in the USA. In the UK, UCB run a channel called UCB2 - Inspirational Radio. Live365 have almost 300 Inspirational radio stations on their system.
INSTORE Many large chains of retail stories have in-house radio channels which are used to promote special offers and provide other announcements. Stations generally play well known tunes designed to uplift shoppers and get them in the mood for buying. They are also used for staff training outside hours. Asda FM reaches 18 million shoppers and 167,000 staff every week, making it the biggest radio station in terms of audience the UK. The programme service for instore stations is often provided to the store groups by programme contractors. TSG are the largest provider of such services in the UK and other providers include PEL, Imagesound and KVH Studios.
INTERNATIONAL This is a bit of “catch all' which includes radio stations which broadcast 'internationally' such as RT, the BBC World Service or the Voice of America, and those stations which play a mixture of international music. Some stations which broadcast a regional type of music such as Hindi, Celtic, Caribbean, Tamil, Middle Eastern and SoCa (from South Caribbean) music are also called 'international'.
JAMMIN OLDIES This format is a fusion of predominantly upbeat dance, pop and disco hits from the 60s and 70s, often replacing R&B and Soul stations in some American cities, who are tying to drop older demographics from their audience and refresh their sound with newer and hipper tracks.
JAZZ There are several forms of Jazz and most have been used for radio station formats - around 300 are still broadcasting online and on FM. The main Jazz sub-genres are Acid jazz, Avant Garde, BigBand, Bop, Classic, Cool, Hard Bop, Latin, Smooth, Swing, Vocal and World Fusion.
LATIN Latin music fuses the rhythm and soul of the entire Latin American region. There are many styles, each with its own particular sound. Many contemporary artists such as Gloria Estefan have broadened the appeal of Latin music, which has many different sub-genres; Bachata, Cumbia, Bossa Nova, Banda, Mariachi, Salsa, Merengue, Tejano and Tropicana are just a few!
LITE AC Stations following a Lite AC format include mainly light Adult-oriented Contemporary tracks (singles and album tracks) usually play a high proportion of “easy listening' tracks from the last couple of decades. Not particularly upbeat material, just gentle laid back 'pop' that's easy on the ear.
LOUNGE This is music designed to be heard faintly, i.e. in the background or as mood setting, often Light Jazz, Smooth Jazz or NAC (see below).
METAL “Loud and very distorted electric guitar” is the best way to describe Metal music. Initially made popular by artists like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the genre now includes the output of Slayer, Metallica, and Slipknot. Metal has been spun off into a few subgenres such as Industrial, Heavy and Extreme. There is even Rap Metal too and nine internet stations major on just that as a format.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD a little used term these days but until 70s it means any laid back popular music, often instrumental. See Easy Listening.
MOD is a genre which includes mostly up tempo American soul music popular in the mid 1960s, plus music of the bands who also played those numbers. The Who, Geno Washington and 1970s hits by The JAM are all 'Mod' which also described a sub-culture lifestyle of those who rode scooters and dressed in a 'clean cut' neo-Italian style and were avowed enemies of 'Rockers' who generally wore leather and rode motorcycles.
MODERN ROCK This genre covers mostly current rock music performed by artists who have emerged during the past five to ten years, rather than older established artistes. Most Modern rock is between Rock and Alternative Rock.
NAC This is a relatively new format, more fully New Adult Contemporary which has mainly smooth jazz tracks. Most stations are designed to be played more as background music than as a performance, to invite criticism or for careful listening. A modern day successor to Easy Listening.
NEW AGE Broadly similar to NAC, New Age has become a popular choice for relaxation, inspiration, and enlightenment. Perfect for those who have chosen the lifestyle of yoga, meditation, and other forms of relaxation. Yanni and John Tesh are two of the acts typical of the New Age genre which also has a couple of sub-genres in Environmental, Fusion, Healing, Meditational and Spiritual. Also known as Ambient or Chill, New Age now has over a hundred radio stations using the format online.
NEWS There are very few 'all news' stations, perhaps a couple of dozen throughout the entire USA. Many of the formerly 'all news' stations have now gone over to News Talk, which combines a regular news service with a phone in format. All news is very expensive to produce as it requires expensive content and only the largest groups or state run broadcasters can afford to operate this.
OLDIES This is a very wide term covers music beyond the recent decade or so covered by 'Contemporary', i.e. older than ten years. It has several sub genres - often 60s, 70s and 80s, even the 50s, however most stations now refine this to be specific music genres from those eras. Stations filtering music to be simply from a particular era will often sound too varied to attract many listeners, very few of whom would think of their tastes as being just of one particular group of years.
PERSONALITY Stations which present well known or high profile DJs with extrovert personalities, who connect or engage with the listeners. They will mix interviews, comedy, music and mini productions to form a programme unique to them. Often these hosts are so well known that they are given a completely free hand in music selection, and often this works very well.
Kenny Everett was an excellent example of a UK personality DJ. Previously, BBC Radio 1 had personality DJs, but these have now mostly been replaced. BBC Radio 2 has almost entirely Personality DJs, though most are not strictly DJs at all, but usually personalities from other fields, such as TV.