What Genres of Music Can You Find On the Radio in the USA?

For Americans, radio remains one of the most popular ways to listen to music, discover new artists, and consume entertainment.

Despite the rise of streaming, podcasts, and digital media, around 82 percent of Americans ages 12 and older still tune into radio channels weekly.

The question is, what kind of music are US fans listening to?

While talk shows may represent the most popular radio format for US consumers, taking up about 10 percent of the overall country’s market share, music lovers still have a lot of variety to explore.

Today, we’ll outline the genres of music you can find on US radio stations and which are the most popular right now.

What Genres of Music are Available on US Radio Stations?

Person sitting on a couch in a bright room with their legs crossed with a portable shortwave radio in their lap
US radio runs the gamut, with stations for every type of musical interest, even obscure genres.

First, let’s cover what types of music are available on US radio stations. The genres covered by radio stations in the US are pretty broad, ranging from country and folk rock to world music.

Primarily, you’ll find most of the same genres on American radios as elsewhere in the Western world, in regions like Canada and the United Kingdom.

Here are the options available.

  • Rock: Rock music stations in the US can include various subgenres. Options range from heavy metal, for hardcore fans, to classic rock (older tunes from previous decades) and alternative rock (indie artists and up-and-coming bands). You can also find stations dedicated to indie, pop, soft, rockabilly, hard, and folk rock.
  • Contemporary hit radio: CHR or contemporary hit radio music stations in the US generally focus on adult contemporary music, including recent top trending hits from various genres and pop music.
  • Easy listening: Easy listening radio channels tend to focus on a variety of softer songs from a range of genres, such as soul music, rhythm and blues, blues, gospel music, smooth jazz, Motown music, and classic hits.
  • Americana genres: Americana music genres on the radio usually include a mixture of roots, blues, gospel, and jazz music. They may also incorporate some country music.
  • Country: One of the most popular genres in the US, country music channels cover everything from classic to contemporary country hits and folk music.
  • Hip-hop and R&B: Hip-hop and R&B music on American radio channels tend to go hand-in-hand with electronic dance music, house music, pop music, and disco, electro, or new wave songs. However, all of these genres can fall into their own categories too.
  • Christian music: Christian music is another familiar genre in the American landscape. Christian channels play classic songs, contemporary hits from Christian artists, gospel music, and even hymns from time to time.
  • World music: World music on American radio includes various styles of audio taken from spaces all over the globe. Options can range from Tejano music to K-Pop and Scandinavian rock.

Some American music stations may also play a variety of other alternative music genres, such as surf music, grindcore, dance-punk, and even songs from famous movie soundtracks.

What Are the Most Popular Music Genres in the US?

As you can see, there are many options to explore regarding music genres for radio stations in the US. Most stations choose playlists based on their format.

For instance, the contemporary hit radio format is one of the biggest in America. CHR radio stations play hits from various genres, including pop, rock, and R&B.

So, which genres are most popular among radio listeners?

Statista’s report of the most popular radio content genres produced in 2022 shares some unique insights. According to this study, the most popular music genres in America are:

Rock, Alternative, and Indie Music (46 percent)

Rock band on stage playing guitar with colorful stage lights
US radio listeners are captivated by rock music, including genres like alt and indie.

Rock music has been growing in popularity in the US for some time now, with increasing numbers of listeners, old and young, now ranking the genre as their favorite of all music styles. With so many channels, it’s little surprise rock has such a firm place in the American radio culture.

Country Music (41 percent)

For years, country music has played a massive role in the American music landscape. Virtually every state has its own dedicated country music channel playing classic or contemporary hits or a combination of both.

Pop/Adult Contemporary (40 percent)

The adult contemporary radio format is one of the most popular and common in the United States, so it’s little surprise that pop and contemporary music rank at number 3 on this list.

While most of the popular radio stations in the US focus on sharing modern hits, some include classics on playlists too.

Urban Music (33 percent)

Urban music, such as hip-hop, R&B, and similar genres, may not be as popular as it once was in the United States.

However, it still ranks high among the top options listeners enjoy. Urban music channels may also include some house and electro music.

Classical Music (22 percent)

Classical music orchestra performing in the US on stage
Classical music might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but 22 percent of Americans seek it out on the radio.

Interestingly, after urban music, classical music is the fifth most popular genre of radio music in the US, according to Statista. Around a fifth of all the respondents in the study said they regularly listen to classical music.

Dance and Electronic (20 percent)

Previously a far more popular music genre, dance and electronic music has lost its appeal to many radio fans throughout the US.

In the Statista report, this genre of music was ranked lower in popularity than weather broadcasts.

Jazz and Blues (16 percent)

Finally, around 16 percent of people in the US rank jazz and blues music as their favorite form of radio content.

This places the genre beneath popular radio broadcasts about sports and news or talk shows but above other music genres such as folk, religious, and world music.

Changing Genre Preferences in the US

While it’s difficult to say the most popular music genre for all American listeners, some valuable insights are available from industry reports.

Looking at industry research, the popularity of music genres is constantly evolving. Five years ago, Nielsen’s Soundscan music report found R&B and hip-hop the most popular music genre.

However, in 2023, 32 percent of Americans said rock was their favorite genre, ranking it far ahead of hip-hop (14 percent).

Additionally, it’s worth noting that ethnicity also influences how popular a specific music type is in different US cultures.

Around 40 percent of white Americans say rock is their most preferred music genre, followed by country and pop. Alternatively, only six percent of Black Americans prefer rock above any other genre.

Ultimately, it’s hard to know which genre is the most popular on American radio. Still, it’s clear to see that listeners have plenty of options to choose from.

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