Soft AC growing in radio; songwriters take note

radio graphic

When I read a headline at Music LinkUp, at first glance, I was confused. The header indicated soft AC “is enjoying a renaissance.” If you think AC only stands for that thermostat setting you hit when the temps rise uncomfortably, you’re wrong. The soft AC the Music LinkUp article is talking about has to do with radio, and musicians might want to take note. 

The term ‘Soft AC’ stands for soft adult contemporary and it has to do with radio programming. In an article at Radio Insight posted in mid-November, Sean Ross explained:

“There’s been nothing but acceptance from advertisers. Once they’re on the station, they not only love the environment, but it works incredibly well for them. We deliver the lucrative women 35-54 audience that advertisers crave, and because of the sizable 55+ audience that also loves the station, the median age skews older than many stations in the market, even though our target demo is very focused.”

I confess I’m not exactly wild about some of the artists the Radio Ink website named as popular for soft AC—”Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton, Vanessa Williams.” The only one I like on that list is Rod Stewart. Then again, I’m not a good measure of the popular aesthetic.

The programming evolution apparently has to do with a market sector that is largely female and not college age. It appears this market sector likes that soft AC enough to make a difference in ratings. The Music LinkUp article  noted:

“Asked about iHeart’s strategy to sell to the age group, Parker says, ‘There’s been nothing but acceptance from advertisers. Once they’re on the station, they not only love the environment, but it works incredibly well for them. We deliver the lucrative women 35-54 audience that advertisers crave, and because of the sizable 55+ audience that also loves the station, the median age skews older than many stations in the market, even though our target demo is very focused.’”

What does that mean for you if you’re a songwriter, or an indie performer? It could mean a lot or nothing, because art always begins in the eyes of the creator. While it’s hard to imagine someone grooving out to Celine Dion, I guess the numbers speak for themselves. Radio is increasingly beyond the reach of many younger people who choose to listen to music on other devices. If you’re in a car a good bit, as I am because of band matters and family and such, you may listen to regular radio or Sirius. I travel a lot with Rebecca, so that usually means we listen to sports. If I had to listen to some of those soft AC artists mentioned above, I’d hang my head out the window and listen to the wind.

Still, the phenomenon of a softer musical style is interesting, and it may have an impact or artists. Or, as with every other musical wave, it may simply have its time in the limelight before demographics drive change within.

Ed. Note: I had some problems attempting to scroll the article at Music LinkUp. I’m not sure why, but the page kept glitching. I thought to mention it in case you experience the same, as a courtesy to my readers.

(Kay B. Day/Dec. 12, 2018)

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