This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Adult standards" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (February 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Adult standards (also sometimes known as the nostalgia or Big Band format[1]) is a North American radio format heard primarily on AM or class A FM stations.

Adult standards started in the 1950s and is aimed at "mature" adults, meaning mainly those people over 50 years of age,[2] but it is mostly targeted for senior citizens. It is primarily on AM because market research reveals that only persons in that age group listen to music on AM in sizable numbers. Adult standards first became a popular format in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a way to reach mature adults who came of age before the rock era but were perhaps too mature for adult contemporary radio or too young for beautiful music or MOR stations. A typical adult standards playlist includes traditional pop music by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, some easy listening numbers from Roger Whittaker and others, and softer tunes from the oldies and adult contemporary music formats.

As originally conceived, the format features big band music, particularly from the 1940s and 1950s,[1] though most modern stations eschew that genre. Younger artists who record in the big-band era style, such as Harry Connick Jr., or Diana Krall, may be played as well. The term "standards" in the format's title is a reference to the standard, a song that is covered extensively by many artists over a prolonged period of time; adult standards may play true standards but are not limited to them.

According to Nielsen Audio, there were 129 stations with adult standards/MOR as format in 2016.[3]: 95  Because the adult standards audience has increased in age to the point where many of its listeners have either died or are no longer attractive to advertisers, the format as it is known today (much like the contemporary decline of oldies and smooth jazz formats, along with the earlier demise of easy listening) is likely to die out. Most independently programmed former adult standards stations have transitioned to other formats such as oldies, classic hits, or adult contemporary music that have similar music but skew toward more modern songs.

Satellite delivered formats

Only about a handful of adult standards stations today are live and locally programmed around-the-clock. Many have affiliated with nationally distributed satellite formats to cut costs; due to advertiser perceptions about the audiences these stations primarily target, a large number of adult standards stations have trouble selling airtime to advertisers, which makes them unprofitable. For example, KIXI 880 AM, serving the Seattle market and KKIN 930 AM, serving Aitkin, terminated its local airstaff to affiliate with the Music of Your Life network. Many others have simply dumped the format altogether, often for all-talk or all-sports formats, oldies, or other formats deemed by management more profitable than standards.

Music of Your Life is an adult standards format that probably more than any other source defined the format. Music of Your Life, was founded by Al Ham in 1978 and boasts a roster of well-known personalities including Peter Marshall, Steve March-Torme, son of the legendary crooner, Mel Tormé, big band leader Les Brown, Jr., radio veteran Al Hardee, Lorri Hafer, daughter of founder Al Ham, and weekend host Pat Boone. Following an internal shakeup in 2008, business developer, Marc Angell took over the fledgling network and moved the company's broadcasting operations to Denver, Colorado, under a distribution deal with Clear Channel Satellite. Music of Your Life is currently distributed by Music of Your Life, Inc. a publicly traded company listed on the OTC markets under the ticker symbol, MYLI, and is distributed to AM, FM, and HD radio stations using the Barix system.

Dial Global (formerly part of Westwood One) has an adult standards format distributed via satellite; Dial Global's is called "Adult Standards" (known on-air as "America's Best Music"). Prior to 2010, ABC distributed Stardust/Timeless Classics/Timeless. Stardust/Timeless Classics was consolidated with a middle-of-the-road format owned by ABC—Unforgettable Favorites/Memories—in 2006, creating Timeless. Westwood One originally called its format AM Only and for a time, as the name suggests, offered the format only to AM stations; today, a handful of FM stations also air Westwood One's format.

While Music of Your Life has not eliminated all of the big-band and traditional pop music from its playlist, Westwood One and ABC dropped much of the older music in favor of softer pop and rock oldies from the 1960s and 1970s top 40 era and a good deal of soft AC material as well. Under Dial Global, some of the older-style songs are making a comeback on the Westwood One format. ABC discontinued its Timeless service early in 2010; that same year, Music of Your Life added more 1960s oldies to its playlist.

iHeartMedia's Format Lab also features at least two adult standards formats.

Adult standards terrestrial stations

Some noteworthy AM & FM radio stations featuring the adult standards format today include:

Call sign Frequency City of License Additional Notes
CFZM 740 AM Toronto, Ontario Believed to be the only remaining adult standards-formatted station in North America broadcasting on a 50,000-watt clear channel signal. Selections are announced on air. Has a strong international following.
CJNU-FM 107.9 FM Winnipeg, Manitoba
CJWL-FM 98.5 FM Ottawa, Ontario The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.
CKDX-FM 88.5 FM Newmarket, Ontario The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.
CKHK-FM 107.7 FM Hawkesbury, Ontario The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.
CKPC-FM 92.1 FM Brantford, Ontario The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.
KDKK 97.5 FM Park Rapids, Minnesota
KKIN 930 AM Aitkin, Minnesota Since August 4, 2014, the station has switched to a sports format with a syndication of NBC Sports Radio. Since August 1, 2017, the station has returned to the adult standards format once again.
KIXI 880 AM Seattle, Washington 50 kW daytime, 10 kW nights.
1500 AM
101.3 FM
Sherman, Texas The station is owned by Bob Mark Allen Productions, Inc. and is an affiliate of CBS News Radio, NOAA Weather Radio, Westwood One, and America's Best Music. As of 2021, the station had partially leaned into a formula of Soft AC/Gold-based AC, but still remains its Adult Standards format.
KQLH-LP 92.5 LPFM Yucaipa, California KQLH-LP (92.5 FM) is a low-power FM radio station branded as "Studio 92.5 FM". The station is operated by Arrowhead Radio Alliance of the Inland Empire broadcasting an Adult Standards Nostalgia Oldies music format. This station is licensed in Yucaipa, California. It can also be heard on Alex and online at
KWXY 1340 AM
Palm Springs, California
KZQX 100.3 FM Tatum, Texas
WABF 1480 AM Mobile, Alabama
WBNJ 91.9 FM Barnegat, New Jersey
WEBR 1440 AM Niagara Falls, New York Adopted the format in 2020. A revival of a station with the same call sign and format previously used on what is now WDCZ from 1924 to 1993. Shifted to a more MOR-influenced playlist in 2021 but retains a traditional standards format on weekends.
WJEJ 1240 AM Hagerstown, Maryland
WJIB 740 AM Cambridge/Boston, Massachusetts "The Memories Station", Bob Bittner, Owner
WKHR 91.5 FM Bainbridge, Ohio Owned by the Kenston Local School District and programmed by both community volunteers and Kenston High School students
WLEC 1450 AM Sandusky, Ohio Airs Dial Global Local's The Lounge format
WLHC 103.1 FM Sanford, North Carolina
WMBS 590 AM Uniontown, Pennsylvania
WRIV 1390 AM Riverhead, New York
WTLO 1480 AM Somerset, Kentucky Since 1958, WTLO has stood for "We're The Local Ones" and prides itself on a live "Buy/Sell/Trade" show airing Monday through Saturday, and playing Adult Standards throughout the day.

Satellite radio

Moving into the 21st Century, adult standards have been given a lift as a format by new media, such as:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Radio Station Format Guide". New York Radio Guide. Retrieved 2024-02-03.
  2. ^ Smith, F. Leslie; Ostroff, David H.; Wright, John W. (31 May 2023). Perspectives on Radio and Television: Telecommunication in the United States. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-000-93880-7. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  3. ^ Hendricks, John Allen; Mims, Bruce (2018). The radio station: broadcasting, podcasting, and streaming (10 ed.). New York/London: Routledge. ISBN 9781351816335.