These days, we rely on our radios for just about everything. Ever since the early days of broadcasts, radio lovers have tuned into talk shows, news bulletins, and of course – amazing music. We’ve explored the top US radio stations for music, and have come up with something for every listener. Read on…
By far, music stations are some of the most popular channels for radio lovers.
We listen to them when we’re driving to work and leave them blaring as background noise through the day. We check out our favorite stations for hints on upcoming hits and enjoy some of our favorite songs.
If you’d like to spend your days listening to the top US radio stations for music, then you’ve come to the right place. As radio fans ourselves, we know that the top American radio stations will always be a matter of personal preference.
However, we’ve taken the time to explore some of the best radio stations in the US for music, based on things like listener count and popularity.
Let’s dive in…
Discovering the best American radio stations
America has always been a nation of radio lovers.
For decades, the country has explored everything from dedicated rock channelsand country broadcasts, to top 40s hits. Radio listenership in the US usually undergoes regular measurement and assessment from groups like Nielsen.
Since there are significant gaps in the coverage that Nielsen has in rural areas, however, it’s hard to know for certain whether any of these reports are 100% accurate. That’s why it’s so hard for anyone to define the top music radio stations in the US.
What we do know for certain is that Americans love a wide variety of radio experiences. Talk channels generally take up around 10% of the market share in the landscape.
These are followed closely by contemporary “adult” channels – which often contain music and talk shows.
Notably, the total listenership for the best US radio stations for music is increasing. According to reports, the listenership for radio in 2017 was around 256 million for the US, which is a massive increase since 2005.
Additionally, as of 2020, Sirius XM Radio – one of the biggest radio companies, boasted a base of around 34.3 million subscribers.
To further highlight the popularity of the best music radio stations in the US, The American Top 40 attracts around 20 million listeners every week too.
The top American radio stations for music
A lack of resources for evaluating the popularity of American stations means that it’s difficult to know for certain which are the best US radio stations for music. However, we can look at some of the top-rated solutions according to market-leaders like Cision.
This New York station has 389,369 listeners, and it plays contemporary hits. The station, licensed to Newark, New Jersey, broadcasts to the New York Metropolitan area, underneath the iHeartMedia brand.
This station is the flagship location for the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.
The studios for WHTZ-FM are situated in the Tribeca Manhattan landscape.
Alongside an analog option, WHTZ broadcasts in HD radio too. The whole system streams online through iHeartRadio.
From 2001 and 2020, this station also broadcast through the Sirius XM Satellite radio. Z100 broadcasts in the mainstream top 40 format.
Much of the music played on Z100 is R&B, pop, alternative, rock, dance, and EDM. There’s also an “On Air with Ryan Seacrest” show. Ryan Seacrest also hosts the American Top 40 show for New York, which airs on Sunday mornings.
2. KIIS FM
KIIS FM, known more commonly as Kiss FM, is a station in Los Angeles with 338,008 listeners. This incredible show broadcasts to the Greater area of Los Angeles.
Owned by iHeartMedia, KIIS-FM serves as the ultimate flagship station for On Air with Ryan Seacrest for the LA region.
Aside from standard analog transmissions, this radio station also broadcasts via two HD radio channels. This location constantly stands out as the top station for the LA region, averaging nearly 1 million listeners across California and LA.
With seven rhythmic stations across Southern California, KIIS is a direct competitor of the contemporary station for hip hop, KAMP-FM.
WKQI-FM is a leading FM radio station serving the regions of Michigan, Detroit. With around 194,040 listeners, this iHeartMedia station broadcasts with a top 40 broadcast.
That means that this is a great place to listen to all of the latest trending songs.
Way back in 2008, the HD2 subchannel of WKQI HD2 started carrying Dance Top 40 formats too. This is a dance-focused radio format that comes from the Clear Channel Format Lab.
If you’re looking for a place to listen into a dance-mix format which features constant mix-show programming from a nationwide club of DJs.
Interestingly, WKQI also used to offer LGBT-focused radio as part of the Clear Channel pride radio format. The HD2 version of this channel now focuses on Classic Funk hits.
The WWPW radio station from Atlanta, Georgia, has 158,867 listeners. Branded as the Power 96-1 channel, this contemporary commercial hit station comes from iHeartMedia.
The station serves the Atlanta area, and also acts as the Atlanta affiliate for the American Top 40 show.
During March 2010, the low-power TV station, WANN-LD started to carry the audio for this station on one of it’s audio-only digital channels. Eventually, the channel progressed onto new digital channels.
The HD2 sub-channel for WWPW carries the Christian Contemporary music of the iHeartRadio Christian Hits service.
The HD3 sub-channel for this station offers a simulcast of the WGST AM 640 channel for the “Black Information Network”.
KMVQ-FM is a San Francisco radio station that serves around 127,409 listeners. This broadcast in California currently follows the CHR Top 40 format.
Bonneville International owns the KMVQ-FM studio, which competes directly with KREV, KVVF, KYLD, and other stations like KMEL.
During mid-2010, the station changed its logo to match the AMP stations in the Detroit and LA regions. The station started to use the slogan of “All the Hits!” during December 31st and rebranded as “99-7 Now!” to match the station WNOW-FM from CBS.
In 2017, CBS Radio announced its upcoming merger to Entercom. To ensure the entities could continue to apply with FCC ownership requirements and limits, the cluster of various radio stations in Sacramento that Entercom owned started to be divested.
Bonneville assumed operations of the stations following completion of the merger in November.
WWWQ is the Atlanta contemporary station with around 111,651 listeners. Serving the Georgia region, this station belongs to Cumulus Media. The WWWQ station hosts the Daly Download with Carson Daly. This is also the flagship station for the Bert Show.
WWWQ studios run in the Sandy Springs suburb, while the transmitter sits in the Druid Hills neighborhood. Besides a standard transmission (analog), WWWQ also broadcasts over 3 HD channels too.
The current format for the WWWQ began in 2001, with 100.5 FM. When that frequency reallocated to the Atlanta market from Alabama, WWWQ took over.
Currently under Cumulus ownership, WWWQ moved into the Hot AC format briefly, before turning back to CHR.
WIOQ is a commercial FM station from Pennsylvania, licensed to serve the Philadelphia region. Like many of the top US radio stations for music, WIOQ belongs to iHeartMedia. The broadcast focuses on a top 40 format for musical hits.
With a transmitter in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, WIOQ-FM has a lot to offer. This HD radio solution started airing iHeart’s Pride Radio format. Elvis Duran and the Morning Show is currently the flagship program for the Q102 Middays schedule.
Rach Buster, the host, is a New Jersey Native.
An American commercial radio station broadcasting in Minnesota, KDWB-FM has around 91,265 regular listeners. The station follows the standard top 40 CHR format. This is the most common option for many of the top music radio stations in the US.
The top 40 standard is also particularly popular among radios with iHeartRadio ownership.
During April 2006, Clear Channel Communications, KDWB’s current owners, announced that the subchannel will carry a format that focuses on dance hits.
The HD2 became the “Party Zone”. The party zone name also applies to the show on Fridays and Saturday nights on KDWB.
In 2010, the Party Zone channel also started broadcasting on K273BH. This channel became one of the two outlets in the clear channel roster that didn’t use the Dance format with Club Phusion design.
Located in Long Island, the WBLA FM station has around 86,575 listeners. Broadcasting in a gospel format, this North Carolina radio station serves the area of Fayetteville in North Carolina. The station also belongs to the Baldwin Branch Missionary church.
In 2004, the Beasley Broadcasting company tried to purchase WGQR and WLBA for around $850,000. However, the Federal Communications Commission disallowed the purchase, because this would have led to Beasley having too many stations in the market.
In 2006, the WBLA and WGQR channels sold to the Christian Listening network for around $875,000. The WGQR channel switched to Southern Gospel format, and by 2020, the station had started airing gospel more frequently.
Last, but not least, the WKSC-FM best US music radio station comes under the title of Kiss FM, and broadcasts from Chicago. With around 85, 223 listeners, WKSC-FM is an impressive station, with studios located in the Illinois Center Complex on Michigan Avenue.
During December 2010, the radio station announced that Brotha Fred from Charlotte would be taking over the morning show for KISS FM. David L and Angi Taylor joined Brotha Fred as co-hosts of the new show, Brotha Fred’s Neighborhood.
During October 2016, Erik Zachary became the new evening personality full-time. Like most of the top US radio stations for music we’ve covered so far, this station has a top 40 format to follow.
Finding the US best radio stations for music
Finding the best US radio stations for music is a difficult challenge. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to what they want to listen to, and how they like getting their music.
Throughout the world, we have countless ways to access the entertainment that we enjoy.
Radio isn’t the only option any more. Streaming services and the internet are making music, talk shows, and countless other forms of entertainment more accessible.
Somehow, despite countless other forms of technologyappearing on the market, radio continues to maintain a crucial place in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere.
Currently, the radio landscape has a reach of around 90% among adults. There are more than 15,500 radio stations across the US – and they’re all competing for a piece of a rapidly growing market.
The market itself has a lot of value to offer – earning billions of dollars. WTOP, for instance, the station operating out of Washington DC, earns about 68 million in yearly revenue.
All the while, radio technology continues to evolve. Online radio is playing a powerful role in the radio market.
Around 57% of the US population were listening to radio monthly during the year of 2018. However, it’s not just the internet that’s driving radio forward.
Alongside massive national broadcasts and stations, public and local stations are starting to thrive more too. According to research from Statista, public radio station revenue has increased to over 900 million in 2019.
Country is easily the most popular music format around. About 2,179 stations broadcast this music genre in the USA.
However, there are lots of other great ways to listen to music in the US too. Americans are huge fans of the top 40 trending music format too.
With so many amazing stations to listen to, it’s no wonder that Americans are averaging around 106 minutes of listening time every day.
Summary: The best US radio stations
With so many radio stations to choose from across the US, you may wonder why people would try to find the best radio stations for music in the first place. If you know what kind of music you love, these days it’s easy to create a playlist that’s perfect for you.
Streaming services and online music channels make it easy to track down the ultimate list of songs for your daily routine. Most Americans, however, don’t want to be overwhelmed by a list of options.
Many consumers would prefer to tune into American stations that can do the work of finding the ideal soundtrack for you.
The great thing about the best US music radio stations, is that you can also discover new music here that you might not discover on your own. Radio DJs have an incredible ability to find new and trending artists that expand your musical journey.
The top radio stations right now deliver a carefully combined selection of entertainment, music, and news.
Around 70% of all audio consumption in the US, happens in the car. Around half of that comes from listening to standard FM radio stations.
Indeed, around 84% of the Americans polled for a study into radio listening said that they rely on radio for their primary source of information and entertainment.
This number remained the same between 2011 and 2018.
If that wasn’t enough evidence that the best music stations in the US still have a lot of influence, how about the fact that Deloitte Global have done their own research.
Deloitte Global thinks adults will continue to listen to around 90 minutes of radio every day in 2020.
The company further said that radio is performing brilliantly with all demographics – including younger generations.
By 2025, Deloitte says that American stations will be delivering more of the entertainment for 18 to 34-year old’s than television. While this might seem like an overzealous prediction at first, it’s fair to note that radio is almost always underestimated.
Throughout history, countless naysayers have said that television and internet would remove radio entirely.
Whatever the best music radio stations in the US might be, they’re going to continue attracting listeners from all over the country.
Learn more about the world of radio with the other articles here on Radio Fidelity.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.