Right Now Music Radio MannGroup Mark St. JohnWhat would it sound like if CHR really knew how to respond to streaming?

Would it be the thing that repatriates young adult listening? Or just proves that Top 40 radio can’t be Spotify (and perhaps shouldn’t)?

Would it pull the format out of the doldrums? Or plunge it further into the extremes? (Or is that ex-streams?)

Trying to make sense of streaming stories now is like the early ‘90s when the advent of SoundScan sales information helped flag dozens of songs that wouldn’t have otherwise been on the radar. In that era when CHR nearly flatlined, most PDs threw up their hands, rather than try to pick and choose. Top 40 was correct not to play Ice Cube, “Wicked,” which had a good first week of sales in early 1993. But they didn’t play the real hits on the album, including “It Was A Good Day,” when they surfaced either.

Mark St. John’s Zapoleon Media Strategies colleague Guy Zapoleon is the programmer associated with the cycles theory—the doldrums and extremes and usually-too-short periods of CHR mass-appeal that those downturns bookend. Programmers still cheerfully try to fit CHR’s travails to the cycles theory, although it’s more complicated now. A lot of the songs I don’t like at CHR fit both the doldrums (because they’re slow and boring) and the extremes (because they’re aggressive).

Now, St. John and syndication veteran Ed Mann’s MannGroup Radio are promoting a format called Right Now Music Radio. RNMR promises to play “exactly what the target demo is listening to on multiple digital platforms. They are the hits, not defined by anyone but the listeners.” (One sweeper declares “it’s not our playlist, it’s yours.”)

As heard this week, RNMR was primarily current; (I heard three recurrrents over the course of an hour and no gold). It played pop, R&B, and at least one Country crossover, but it did not sound extreme or unrecognizable as Mainstream CHR. If you have issues with today’s brooding, atmospheric CHR music, a format centered on streaming hits is not going to solve that, but it certainly played as fresher and more enjoyable than a lot of large-market CHRs that are both slow and old at this moment. (The just released Imagine Dragons song was in the hour I heard, for example.)

Here’s the demo stream as heard July 17, just after 9 p.m. ET:

  • Khalid & Normani, “Love Lies”
  • Zedd & Maren Morris, “The Middle”
  • Ella Mai, “Boo’d Up”
  • Taylor Swift, “Delicate”
  • Post Malone, “Rockstar”
  • Brett Young, “Mercy”
  • Drake, “In My Feelings”
  • Calvin Harris f/Dua Lipa, “One Kiss”
  • The Carters, “Apes**t”
  • Bebe Rexha f/Florida-Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”
  • Imagine Dragons, “Natural”
  • Ariana Grande, “No Tears Left To Cry”
  • Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
  • Maroon 5, “Wait”
  • Cardi B, “I Like It”
  • G-Eazy f/Yo Gotti & YBN Nahmir, “1942”
  • Foster The People, “Sit Next To Me”

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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