Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/18/2015 - 09:26
The rise (and fall?) of the classic hip-hop format
The rise (and fall?) of the classic hip-hop format

We always chuckle a little when an international news outlet like The New York Times covers topics like format flips, music-scheduling software, sound flow, and target listeners—subjects that it agrees radio professionals talk about in a way that “normal human beings do not.”  Nonetheless, it’s great to read some coverage of the radio industry in this Sunday’s NY Times Magazine section and to see our industry’s business plan laid out so succinctly: “For radio-station owners, the business plan is simple: Attract the broadest possible audience to your programming and then do everything you can to keep them listening.”


This article talks specifically about the success of Cumulus’ “93.9, The Beat” in Indianapolis, a station that flipped in late 2014 to the Classic Hip-Hop format which first showed promise in Houston in October, 2013 and has since spread to other top-10 markets like Dallas and Philadelphia (to name just a few).  For our readers overseas that may not be super familiar with this musical strain, the format targets listeners in their mid-20s to mid-40s, focusing on people who grew up during rap’s golden era and listened to artists like Notorious B.I.G., Snoop, 50 Cent, and Tupac.  Delivering “an utterly irresistible blend of rap and R & B hits,” The Beat in Indy also opts to embrace a more crossover sound with songs like Outkast’s ‘‘Hey Ya!’’, The Fugees “Ready or Not,” and TLC’s “Creep.” 


The tactical delivery of the format differs by city and is heavily influenced by the demographics of each market.  In particular, Radio One’s “Boom 92” has a more classic hip-hop focus as the Houston market is comprised of a population that is 18% Black/African-American and 34% Hispanic.  Indianapolis’ population, on the other hand, is 16% black/African-American and 6% Hispanic so this composition weighs on programmers in figuring out what to play.  Regardless of their differing tactical approaches, both stations know it is their job “to play the hits.” 


Feel free to decipher the difference on your own…here are links to listen to the two stations:


Boom 92 (Houston):

93.9, The Beat (Indianapolis):


The NY Times article does a great job of detailing the initial success that stations like Boom and The Beat have managed to achieve; however, it does not dwell upon the issue of longevity and sustainability.  In particular, since its launch, “93.9, The Beat” has seen its ratings erode, going from a 5.6 to a 5.1 to a 4.4 in the past three months (Nielsen, 6+).  Boom is not even in the top 20 in the latest set of Houston ratings.  Radio One’s WPHI “Boom 107.9” in Philadelphia has trended 3.0 to 2.5 to 2.1 in the last three ratings periods (Nielsen, 6+).  For those of us who remember and worked closely with the Jammin’ Oldies format in the last 90s/early 2000s, these trends are all too familiar, suggesting that the format may enjoy an initial novelty effect but may lack sustainability.  It’s an interesting trend to watch and only time will tell…


The NYT article is clearly worth a read, by the way: