Album-oriented rock (AOR) is an American FM radio format focusing on album tracks by rock artists. AOR evolved from progressive rock radio in the mid-1970s, using research and formal programming to create an album rock format with greater commercial appeal.
The roots of the album-oriented rock radio format began with programming concepts rooted in 1960s idealism. The freeform and progressive formats developed the repertoire and set the tone that would dominate AOR playlists for much of its heyday.
In July 1964, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a non-duplication rule prohibiting FM radio stations from merely running a simulcast of the programming from their AM counterparts. Owners of AM/FM affiliate stations fought these new regulations vigorously, delaying enactment of the new rules until January 1, 1967. When finally enacted, station owners were pressed to come up with alternative programming options.
The freeform format in commercial radio was born out of the desire to program the FM airwaves inexpensively. Programmers like Tom Donahue at KMPX in San Francisco developed stations where DJs had freedom to play long sets of music, often covering a variety of genres. Songs were not limited to hits or singles; indeed the DJs often played obscure or longer tracks by newer or more adventurous artists than heard on Top 40 stations of the day. This reflected the growth of albums as opposed to singles as rock's main artistic vehicle for expression in the 1960s and 1970s.
With a few exceptions, commercial freeform had a relatively brief life. With more and more listeners acquiring FM radios, the stakes became higher for stations to attract market share so that they could sell more advertising at a higher rate.
By 1970 many of the stations were moving to institute programming rules with a "clock" and system of "rotation". With this shift, stations' formats in the early 1970s were now billed as progressive. DJs still had much input over the music they played, and the selection was deep and eclectic, ranging from folk to hard rock with other styles such as jazz fusion occasionally thrown in.
In October 1971, WPLJ in New York began to shift its free-form progressive rock format into a more tightly formatted hit oriented rock format, similar to what would later become known as album-oriented rock. WPLJ's parent company ABC installed similar formats on all of its FM stations including KLOS in Los Angeles and WRIF in Detroit. In 1973 Lee Abrams, formerly at WRIF, successfully installed a similar format, later known as SuperStars, at WQDR in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In 1972, Ron Jacobs, program director at KGB-FM in San Diego, began using detailed listener research and expanded playlists in shifting the top 40 station towards a progressive rock format. Meanwhile, at competing station KPRI, program director Mike Harrison was similarly applying top 40 concepts to the progressive format which he dubbed "album-oriented rock."
In the mid-1970s, as program directors began to put more controls over what songs were played on air, progressive stations evolved into the album-oriented rock format. Stations still played longer songs and deep album tracks (rather than just singles), but program directors and consultants took on a greater role in song selection, generally limiting airplay to just a few "focus tracks" from a particular album and concentrating on artists with a more slickly produced "commercial" sound than what had been featured a few years earlier. Noted DJ "Kid Leo" Travagliante of influential station WMMS in Cleveland observed the changes in a 1975 interview: "I think the '60s are ending about now. Now we are really starting the '70s. The emphasis is shifting back to entertainment instead of being 'relevant'...In fact, I wouldn't call our station progressive radio. That's outdated. I call it radio. But I heard a good word in the trades, AOR. That's Album-Oriented Rock. That's a name for the '70s."
Radio consultants Kent Burkhart and Lee Abrams had a significant impact on AOR programming. Beginning in the mid-1970s they began contracting with what would become over 100 stations by the 1980s. Lee Abrams had developed a format called SuperStars, pioneering it at WQDR, and had been very successful in delivering high ratings. The SuperStars format was based on extensive research and focused on the most popular artists such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles and also included older material by those artists. While his SuperStars format was not quite as tight as Top 40 radio, it was considerably more restricted than freeform or progressive radio. Their firm advised program directors for a substantial segment of AOR stations all over the US.
By the late 1970s, AOR radio discarded the wide range of genres embraced earlier on to focus on a more narrowly defined rock sound. The occasional folk, jazz, and blues selections became rarer and most black artists were effectively eliminated from airplay. Whereas earlier soul, funk, and R&B artists like Stevie Wonder, War, Sly Stone and others had been championed by the format, AOR was no longer representing these styles, and took a stance against disco. In 1979, Steve Dahl of WLUP in Chicago destroyed disco records on his radio show, culminating in the notorious Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park.
What links the freeform, progressive, and AOR formats are the continuity of rock artists and songs carried through each phase. Programmers and DJs of the freeform and progressive phases continued to cultivate a repertoire of rock music and style of delivery that were foundations of AOR and classic rock radio. Those AOR stations, which decided to stay "demographically-rooted", became classic rock stations by eschewing newer bands and styles which their older listeners might tune out. Those that did not fully evolve into classic rock generally attempted to hold on to their older listeners through careful dayparting, playing large amounts of classic rock during the 9–5 workday shift while newer material was played at night when the listener base skewed younger.
Most radio formats are based on a select, tight rotation of hit singles. The best example is Top 40, though other formats, like country, smooth jazz, and urban all utilize the same basic principles, with the most popular songs repeating every two to six hours, depending on their rank in the rotation. Generally there is a strict order or list to be followed and the DJ does not make decisions about what selections are played.
AOR, while still based on the rotation concept, focused on the album as a whole (rather than singles). In the early 1970s many DJs had the freedom to choose which track(s) to play off a given album—as well as latitude to decide in what order to play the records. Consequently, AOR radio gave mainstream exposure to album tracks that never became hits on the record charts that were limited to singles; Billboard, for instance, did not establish an airplay chart for album tracks until 1981.
Later in the 1970s AOR formats became tighter and song selection shifted to the program director or music director, rather than the DJ. Still, when an AOR station added an album to rotation they would often focus on numerous tracks at once, rather than playing the singles as they were individually released.
In the early 1980s, AOR radio was criticised for the lack of black artists included in their programming. AOR programmers responded that the lack of diversity was the result of increased specialization of radio formats driven by ratings and audience demographics. In 1983, the undeniable success of Michael Jackson's album Thriller led some AOR stations to soften their stance by adding Jackson's "Beat It", which featured Eddie Van Halen, to their playlists. At the same time, other black artists also made inroads into AOR radio—Prince's "Little Red Corvette", Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" and "Beat It" all debuted on Billboard's Top Tracks chart the same week in April 1983, and through the remainder of the 1980s Jon Butcher, Tracy Chapman, Living Colour, Prince and Lenny Kravitz did manage to receive AOR airplay of varying magnitude.
In the 1980s some AOR radio stations added glam metal bands such as Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi, while others embraced modern rock acts such as the Fixx, INXS and U2. But by the end of the decade, AOR stations were playing fewer and fewer new artists and the rise of grunge, alternative and hip-hop accelerated the fade-out of the album-oriented rock format. By the early 1990s many AOR stations switched exclusively to the classic rock format or segued to other current formats with somewhat of an AOR approach:
Active rock is a radio format used by many commercial radio stations across the United States and Canada. Active rock stations play a popular mix of new hard rock songs with valued classic rock favorites, normally with an emphasis similar to Mainstream Rock and Album Oriented Rock on the hard rock end of the spectrum.Adult album alternative
Adult album alternative (also triple-A, AAA, or adult alternative) is a radio format. A spinoff from the album-oriented rock format, its roots trace to the 1960s and 1970s from the earlier freeform and progressive formats.Arena rock
Arena rock (also known as album-oriented rock [AOR], anthem rock, corporate rock, dad rock, melodic rock, pomp rock, and stadium rock) is a style of rock music that originated in the mid-1970s. As hard rock bands and those playing a softer yet strident kind of pop rock became increasingly popular, groups began creating material inherently designed for large audiences, and arena rock developed from their use of more commercially oriented and radio-friendly sounds. The often highly-produced music, including both upbeat, dramatic songs and slower power ballads, features strong emphasis on melody and frequently employs anthemic choruses. Other major characteristics include prominent guitar effects and the use of keyboard instruments.Many of the above labels are used pejoratively, and discussions over music criticism often delves into the question of if musicians' focus on rock spectacle and mass appeal results in compromised artistic merit, particularly in terms of the difference between the interests of the "middlebrow" populace versus other listeners. Interest in arena rock is stereotypically associated with working class to middle class white men living in either Canada or the United States (including so-called "yuppies"), which has been cited as the basis for condescending prejudice over social status in some criticisms. However, the style of music has been popularly successful worldwide, particularly in terms of touring.KACC
KACC is an album-oriented rock (AOR) formatted radio station based in Alvin, Texas, broadcasting on 89.7 FM in the Greater Houston area. It is under ownership of Alvin Community College, and is run by Mark Moss. Its transmitter is located in Santa Fe-Alvin border.
KACC was originally a volunteer radio station that became a part of the RTV curriculum at Alvin Community College. Founder Cathy Forsythe (1956–2007) was instrumental in making KACC a part of the Alvin/Brazoria County landscape.KATT-FM
KATT-FM (100.5 FM, "ROCK 100.5 The KATT") is a Mainstream Rock radio station serving the Oklahoma City area and is owned by Cumulus Media. Its studios are in Northwest Oklahoma City, and the transmitter is on the Northside.KDVV
KDVV (100.3 FM) is a radio station broadcasting an album-oriented rock format. Licensed to Topeka, Kansas, United States, the station serves the Topeka area. The station is currently owned by Cumulus Media and features programming from Westwood One.KLBJ-FM
KLBJ-FM (93.7 MHz) is a commercial radio station in Austin, Texas. It airs an album-oriented rock radio format and calls itself "The Rock of Austin." KLBJ-FM is owned by Emmis Communications of Indianapolis, but once was owned by the family of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and still carries his initials as its call letters.
KLBJ-FM has studios and offices along Interstate 35 in North Austin. The transmitter and broadcast tower are atop Austin's Mount Larson. KLBJ-FM broadcasts in the HD Radio format. Its HD-2 subchannel airs Blues music.
The morning show, "Dudley and Bob with Matt" (Dale Dudley, Bob Fonseca and Matt Bearden), is in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. In 2007, it won a Marconi Award from the National Association of Broadcasters for "Medium Market Personality of the Year." KLBJ-FM holds an annual fishing tournament each year in Jonestown, Texas.KLOS
KLOS (95.5 MHz, 95.5 KLOS) is a commercial FM radio station licensed to Los Angeles, California and broadcasting to the Greater Los Angeles area. The station airs an album-oriented rock radio format and has broadcast rock music in some form since 1969. KLOS is owned by Cumulus Media and operated by Meruelo Media via local marketing agreement; a sale of the station to Meruelo is pending. It is home to The Frosty, Heidi & Frank morning show, which is featured on the nationally syndicated television program Dish Nation.
KLOS broadcasts in HD. AM sister station KABC's talk format is heard on the KLOS HD2 subchannel. KLOS is rebroadcast heard on FM translator K225BZ in China Lake, California.KOMP (FM)
KOMP is a class-C FM radio station operating on 92.3 MHz licensed to Las Vegas, Nevada. KOMP broadcasts an active rock music format. Its studios are in the unincorporated community of Spring Valley in Clark County and its transmitter is on Potosi Mountain southwest of the Las Vegas Valley.
KOMP broadcasts in HD.KRST
KRST (Nash FM 92.3 KRST) is a commercial radio station located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, broadcasting to the Albuquerque-Santa Fe, New Mexico area on 92.3 FM. KRST airs a country music format owned by Cumulus Media. Its studios are located in Downtown Albuquerque and the transmitter tower is located atop Sandia Crest east of the city.WKVE
WKVE is an Album Oriented Rock formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, serving the Westmoreland County area and Southwestern Pennsylvania in particular. WKVE is owned and operated by Broadcast Communications Inc.WONC
WONC (89.1 FM) is a radio station broadcasting an album-oriented rock format. Licensed to Naperville, Illinois, United States, the station serves the Chicago area. The station is currently owned by North Central College.WPDA
WPDA (106.1 FM) is a radio station broadcasting an album-oriented rock (AOR) format, simulcasting WPDH 101.5 FM Poughkeepsie, New York. Licensed to Jeffersonville, New York, United States, the station is owned by Townsquare Media and features programming from AP Radio. Its studios are in Poughkeepsie, and its transmitter is located in Liberty, New York.
WPDA also breaks away from the format to simulcast New York Yankees games with sister station, country WKXP.
On August 30, 2013, a deal was announced in which Cumulus Media would swap its stations in Dubuque, Iowa and Poughkeepsie, New York (including WPDA) to Townsquare Media in exchange for Peak Broadcasting's Fresno, California stations. The deal is part of Cumulus' acquisition of Dial Global; Townsquare, Peak, and Dial Global are all controlled by Oaktree Capital Management. The sale to Townsquare was completed on November 14, 2013.WSMS
WSMS (99.9 FM, "The Fox") is a Mississippi based radio station broadcasting an album-oriented rock (AOR) music format. Licensed to Artesia, Mississippi, United States, the station serves the Columbus-Starkville-West Point area. The station is currently owned by Cumulus Media and features programming from Premiere Radio Networks.WTOS-FM
WTOS-FM (105.1 FM), known as "The Mountain of Pure Rock", is a commercial FM album-oriented rock (AOR) radio station licensed to Skowhegan, Maine whose studios are located in Augusta.WTUX
WTUX (101.1 FM) is an American album-oriented rock (AOR) radio station licensed to Gouldsboro, Maine, United States. The station is owned by Blueberry Broadcasting, LLC and simulcasts co-owned WTOS-FM.WWWV
WWWV (97.5 FM) is a classic rock formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Charlottesville, Virginia, and serves Central Virginia and the Central Shenandoah Valley. WWWV is owned and operated by Saga Communications.WXYG
WXYG (540 AM) is an American radio station licensed to serve the community of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, United States. The station is part of the Tri-County Broadcasting group and the license is held by the Herbert M. Hoppe Revocable Trust. WXYG broadcasts an album-oriented rock (AOR) format.
decade of origin