The Death of Adult Standards

Wikipedia Definition

While the Wikipedia definition is skewed towards the bias of the person who wrote it, it has the basic facts correct. Adult standards is a music format primarily heard on a.m. radio, targeted at the self-proclaimed “Greatest Generation”. It generally includes music from the 1930s 40s and a little bit of the 1950s – anything up until the beginning of rock ‘n roll.

Typical artists you would hear would be Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, etc… 20 years ago, format was heavier on the big band era – Ella Fitzgerald, Patty Page, the Andrew sisters, Tommy Dorsey and the like. If you were a teenager in the 1930s, you are now in your 90s – so the format has been dropping most of the pre-World War II music, and adding in artists like Linda Ronstadt and Barbra Streisand.

Cumulus Media now owns both of the major satellite delivered adult standard music services – one originally part of ABC radio, and the other from Jones radio.

Last week, a person was finally put in charge of the revamp of Westwood One – which now includes NBC radio, the Westwood One Sports Lineup, the old Jones music syndication, the Jones progressive talk lineup, the a Westwood One talk network (Jim Bohannon, Dennis Miller, Phil Valentine) and the ABC music radio formats.

Cumulus already announced their intent to consolidate these music services – but they are taking it way further than just consolidating.

Now that a new guy is in place, and they’ve made it clear that the syndication done by Cumulus will be under the Westwood One brand, I started going through and changing information about these programs. In the course of doing that, I found the “new” definition of what “adult standards” means, according to Cumulus

Westwood One / Cumulus definition

Westwood one begins by saying adult standards is targeted at the people who own 89% of the wealth of the country – the upper end of which is the trailing edge of the baby boomers. At 58, I am already too old for adult standards.

The artist list includes Frank Sinatra, that’s the only old-school singer on the list – replaced with the Beatles, the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, and Michael Buble.

And so it goes…

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15 Responses to The Death of Adult Standards

  1. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    I used to pass through the NYC area in the 1970s. In 1979, WPIX-FM was a punk rock radio station (Blondie, Ramones, B-52s, etc). Frank Zappa was once a guest DJ there. At the time, WCBS-FM was oldies – Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly, etc.

    Last time I scanned the commercial FM band, WCBS-FM was still oldies, but now playing Blondie, Ramones, B-52s etc.

    It was only 20 years from 1959 to 1979…. and 1979 is 35 years from today.

    “Time and tide wait for no man.” —- Donald Rumsfeld

  2. haiti222 says:

    When we lost our JACK-FM like station, the oldies station from CBS is now playing oldies up to 1990.

    Westwood-One wants you to be listening to Good-Time Oldies, which is aimed at men all the way to 64!

    Adult Standards seems to be for the woman who likes Mad Men.

    • Art Stone says:

      I’m way out on a limb – I barely even know if my car has an FM radio. I get the distinct impression the music department within Cumulus is being run by accountants and psychographic demographers.

      Exhibit one is Nash FM – the very notion that there is a national concept called “country music” flies in the face of reality – “Country Music” means very different things in West Texas, Nashville, New York City, the mountains of Tennessee and the hollers of West Virginia. Trying to create a hybrid of honkytonk, bluegrass and gospel just won’t work in any place. You have to know your local audience.

      • CC1s121LrBGT says:

        “Nash FM” – now there is an oxymoron to end all oxymorons. I don’t think a single model from Nash even had FM.

        Jazz from Honda or Fusion from Ford… at least they had FM radios.

      • CC1s121LrBGT says:

        I can see the idea of reducing cost by having one national feed. Back in the 50s and 60s and even into the 70s, stations in different cities played different rock’n’roll songs.

        What is interesting is that Jimmy Iovine has build much of the multi-billion dollar Beats on just the opposite – very tailored playlists, rather than one playlist for everyone. If forced to choose sides on this, the Apple/Beats side versus the Cumulus side…. well, one doesn’t need an MBA or a finance degree to see which company has been more successful than the other.

  3. Nidster says:

    Yeah, talking bout the death of Adult Standards, just consider Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, the Sudanese Woman, Sentenced To Death For Choosing Christianity Over Islam.

  4. briand75 says:

    Adult Standards – my father-in-law listens to this every morning. I hear the 40’s and some 50’s, but Art is correct, there is other, more contemporary music creeping in. He was with the USAAF in WWII and he loves his 40’s music. He was a teen when the music was first hitting the bandstands and the airwaves. He complained one time about the shift, but as long as there is some Sinatra and some Glen Miller, he is okay with it. He is 90 years young.

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      There is some great music from that era. And most of it has been digitally cleaned up so it sounds better now than it did then.

      Interesting how labels stick. When the Beatles hit Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago, it was 19 years after WW2. The teenie boppers were screaming at the Beatles, and the adults? Of course, they were listening to adult music.

  5. Art Stone says:

    Tim Sabean is leaving Sirius / XM. He has been there from the beginning and was in charge of programming. It’s logical this is due to Mel Karmazin being shown the exit door of the company he created.

    How will that translate into programming changes? Don’t know. If they sign Rush Limbaugh, it’s Game Over for AM radio. Rush has said his loyalty is to Over The Air radio, but the lack of national ad revenue could start to motivate him. Radio is no longer that station he grew up fantasizing about being on some day. Getting an extra 20 minutes an hour to talk would appeal to him as well.

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      I may be wrong, but from memory, I believe they had had Rush on the XM side, along with Sean and all the ABC talkers. ABC talk radio had a channel there about 10 years ago with them, Bob Brinker and others.

      • Art Stone says:

        He’s pretty consistently said he refused to be on it. I think what was the case was Clear Channel invested in XM which gave them the right to program a number of channels. Rush was never syndicated by ABC. Hannity was – until Citadel bought ABC and that allowed him to switch to Premiere (Clear Channel) – first on the non ABC stations and as of 6 months ago now completely off of AbC/Cumulus. Beck has been there for a long time, but quietly so. Disney (ABC) seems to have a mortal battle with Beck and won’t allow him on their stations.

        • CC1s121LrBGT says:

          You are right. I dug into it and found it was called the “ABC New Talk” on XM Sirus. It did have Hannity and Levin but not Rush.

          • Art Stone says:

            Because most stations carried both Rush and Hannity, many people (including some in the business) assumed that they had the same syndicator. The presence of Limbaugh on ABC (1988) predates when Jacor bought Premiere (1997) and Clear Channel bought Jacor (1999) – further clouding the issue.

            A lot of people “in the biz” also don’t know that Rush had a syndicated TV show for 4 years that outdrew Nightline (because some stations carried it the following morning)

            People are shocked that he knows how to appear on video

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