Understanding Radio Formats: CHR

The relevance of radio these days is probably a topic worth debating. I imagine some of you never listen to the radio at all while some of you still find most of your new music on it. Radio may be waning but regardless, you need to learn the old industry model before you can fully understand new ones. So today’s post, with more to come on each format, is part of helping you do that.

Whether you want to be an artist, a manager, a label executive, a marketing consultant, a radio promoter, a DJ, or perhaps even a producer, it is important that you understand that genre constraints of major radio stations. This will help you understand why certain stations play the music they do and how to position an artist if you are looking to get airplay.

A radio format essentially describes the music genre they play and in some senses who the station’s target market is. CHR stands for Contemporary Hits Radio and focuses on the Top 40, these are the stations where you would currently hear things like Eminem, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. These stations are usually commercial, meaning simply that they operate for profit and play commercials to earn money. Commercial stations usually play music targeted to a certain demographic in order to gain listeners and attract advertisers interested in that market. This is pretty similar to how most television shows and stations make money.

The term CHR was coined by Radio and Records, a former chart and trade publication that was recently merged into Billboard. Within this format there are several different subdivisions, but they all focus on mainstream, top forty pop music.

CHR Subformats:

  • CHR Pop, what we’ve been discussing so far, is the main format and is generally what is referred to if you hear CHR used alone.
  • CHR Rhythmic is a top forty station that has a higher concentration of rap, hip-hop and R&B music.
  • CHR Dance leans tend to be remixed direction and other dance songs.
  • CHR Rock plays more modern rock and lighter rock music (I’m guessing you’re getting the theme here)
  • Adult CHR is a little bit softer and aimed at a slightly older crowd and plays less hip hop, rap, and heavy rock

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