To mark the 25th anniversary of its Adult Alternative Airplay Chart, Billboard gathered a group of programmers to take a look at where the format has been and where it is heading in 2021 and beyond.
Since 1996 “everything has changed,” Jim McGuinn PD at Minnesota Public Radio “89.3 The Current” KCMP Minneapolis tells the music industry publication. “That’s before the internet. Before cell phones. And when Tower Records was expanding during the CD boom. It was also before the Telecom Act and before voice tracking – when you needed a full air staff of music heads to run a station.”
Today, adult alternative radio stations “are now regarded as the taste making, trailblazing radio stations,” Mark “Mookie” Kaczor, PD at California State University-Northridge KCSN Los Angeles (88.5) says.
Comparing commercial signals to their non-comm AAA brethren, Bruce Warren, PD at University of Pennsylvania’s WXPN Philadelphia (88.5) says, “Commercial radio isn’t about music – it’s about real estate. With some rare exceptions – where the really great commercial stations have been, like KBCO (Denver/Boulder) and WXRT (Chicago), Triple A flourished – but over the years, it’s the public stations that were really breaking new artists, and not commercial radio.”
Russ Borris, MD at Fordham University’s WFUV New York (90.7), says the format remains strong and attracts loyal listeners due to “the unpredictability of the golds mixed with the strongest music discovery quotient of any format. There’s something special about how fresh and alive a great Triple A radio station sounds.”
McGuinn says adult alternative “stations are all unique. Unlike other formats where you can hear the same music, imaging – and too often, the same DJs – across the country, these are local stations, living and breathing the same air as our audiences, and working together with listeners to create that musical hub that becomes a community.”
Brad Savage, PD at Akron City School District’s “91.3 The Summit” WAPS Akron, OH, sees a bright future for adult alternative radio. “I think the format will continue to bring in new audience, younger, and new generations for the future,” he says.
Looking ahead, McGuinn says, “I do think we will continue to see more inclusivity on our playlists and microphones, as we move forward. But the fundamentals don’t change – this is content for the musically curious, for those that want and crave more than the mainstream, and for an audience that is leading the way to the future.”