Joining the Nielsen BDS-based chart's reporting panel are top-10 market stations (according to Nielsen Audio rankings) WFUV (90.7) New York; KCSN (88.5) Los Angeles; KKXT (91.7) Dallas; WXPN (88.5) Philadelphia; and WERS (88.9) Boston. Also new are fellow non-comms KCMP (89.3) Minneapolis; WTMD (89.7) Baltimore; and WFPK (91.9) Louisville, Ky. Commercial signals WWNU (92.1) Columbia, S.C., and WRSI (93.9/101.5) Northampton, Mass., also now contribute to the tally.
The stations join such longtime commercial cornerstone reporters as WXRT (93.1) Chicago, KFOG (104.5) San Francisco and WXRV (92.5) Boston, among others.
The catalyst for the largely non-comm-driven makeover? Several non-commercial adult alternative stations have increased song rotations, edging them closer to their commercial format counterparts, while still maintaining a position of more eclectic music discovery. (As these stations rely on listener donations and underwriting, instead of traditional advertising, to infuse their bottom lines, they tend not to be as hyper-focused on Nielsen Audio ratings, which determine advertising rates; thus, more freedom exists for non-comms to break from commercial radio's ratings-driven penchant for playing hits with more frequency. Instead, they seek to cultivate musical acts that listeners can hear exclusively on their airwaves.)
"These new-breed non-comms commit to new music readily, which will certainly regenerate [the format]'s position as a leader in breaking new acts," says KCSN program director Sky Daniels.
To Daniels' point, multi-format smashes including Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Lorde's "Royals" charted on Adult Alternative Songs before any other airplay rankings.
In turn, record labels are enthusiastic about promoting adult alternative fare to new reporters with significant audiences in major markets, with, ultimately, notable airplay ideally translating to increased album sales. "These stations are essential partners for our business," says Trina Tombrink, VP of adult alternative promotion and artist development for Republic (which has helmed Lorde's rise).
As Lorde's follow-up "Team" tops Adult Alternative Songs for a fourth week, songs that make notable moves on the reimagined chart include U2's "Invisible," which bounds 13-4 as the list's Greatest Gainer; Beck's "Blue Moon" (16-6); Foster the People's "Coming of Age" (15-7); and Vance Joy's "Riptide" (14-10).
While the format's roots date to the '60s – the Beatles' catalog, for instance, remains central to many stations' libraries, along with veterans like Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Tom Petty – Billboard premiered Adult Alternative Songs with the chart dated Jan. 20, 1996. By then, a generation of music had built the format into the mix of styles and eras its offers today.
"The addition of the chart recognizes [the format's] integral role in developing the careers of many of today's most popular artists," Billboard noted upon the chart's inception, citing that Dave Matthews Band, among other acts, had ridden the format's support to wider mainstream acceptance.
Since the chart's start, Coldplay and U2 share the lead for the most Adult Alternative Songs No. 1s (10 each). Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band rank next with nine leaders each, followed by Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows and R.E.M. (seven apiece).
Perhaps such up-and-comers now scaling the chart as Boy & Bear, the Wild Feathers and Lucius will add their names to the ranking's record book, given the format's continuous quest to expose the best in new adult alternative music.
"These stations are music tastemakers in their respective markets," Tombrink observes. "They are often the first to play developing artists' records and the first to commit to full-time airplay.
"They enable us to reach a very specific and passionate music consumer audience."