Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content




Posted on

You spent your collegiate ’80s listening to bands like the Replacements and the Cure, but now you’re in your 30s-too old for moshing but too young for Gloria Estefan. Where do you turn to hear music that’s relaxing and familiar, but not overly laid-back? A burgeoning radio format called adult alternative, that’s where. Stations like Sacramento’s KQPT, WKOC in Norfolk, Va., and adult-rock pioneer KBCO in Boulder, Co., are beginning to play what could be called the hip, thinking man’s lite FM: a mix of quirky modern singer-songwriters (Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, John Hiatt), old-school college-radio favorites like R.E.M. and Peter Gabriel, and easy-listening alternative acts such as the Cranberries and the Sundays. ”It’s an outlet for people who like music but haven’t bought CDs in a while,” says WKOC program director Lauren MacLeash, who describes her station’s average listener as ”a 33-year-old male who wears a tie to work, has a kid or two, and is into recycling and environmental issues.” Kid Leo, vice president of album promotion at Columbia, waxes enthusiastically that the format ”could be a big force in radio. There are a lot of disenfranchised people out there, and they’re starved for new music. They want rock but not in the form of new bands, and they’re sick of the classics.” Barely a year old, the adult-rock radio concept is still gestating. The format itself has a variety of names-adult alternative, progressive adult, and AAA, or triple A (for album adult alternative)-and only 34 stations playing it nationwide, totaling a mere 2 percent of the market. (The leading radio format remains adult contemporary-the land of Phil Collins and Mariah Carey-which commands 16.4 percent.) But that should change: The radio business loves slotting listeners into recognizable consumer blocks, and the upscale, heavily male 25-to-54 listeners drawn to adult alternative are an advertiser’s dream. / Plus, as Columbia’s Leo says, ”The older you get, the more you want someone to tell you what’s going on in life.” Even, apparently, if you’ve only just retired your scuffed-up Doc Martens. -DB