Is the Throwback Hip Hop Format Dead? No, and Here’s Why

Is the Throwback Hip Hop Format Dead? No, and Here’s Why

There has been some chatter in the industry that the Throwback Rhythm format is “dead” and was a flash in the pan, but we would like to respectfully disagree. We have found it IS a viable format option in the right conditions and with the right execution.

Jay Z throwback hip hopThis Rhythmic Gold format hasn’t really consolidated under one name – it has been called Throwbacks, Adult Rhythmic, Rhythmic AC/Hot AC, Hip Hop Gold and perhaps that is what has caused it to have an image problem. There isn’t one name for the format. We’ll call it Throwback Rhythm.

The format has been executed in a lot of different ways; just two examples that my company is involved in: Hot 96.9 in Boston plays a lot of 90s and 2000s Hip Hop, while Magic 92.5 in San Diego is more Old School Pop mixed in with 90s throwbacks. BOTH perform very strongly, and Hot in Boston is even #1 P18-34 in the fall.

We find it is difficult to make national generalizations about a format’s potential, because there are so many market-specific factors that go into a successful station:

  • Demographic and Ethnic balance
  • The history of music exposed in the market
  • The radio competitive landscape
  • The right balance between current, recurrent and gold in your strategy

There are a couple of keys things to consider if Throwback Rhythm is a format worth considering for your situation:

  • The format might garner good weekly cume from Caucasians, but it is important for it to gain TSL from Hispanic and African-American listeners
  • Major talent in mornings helps get the daily usage necessary to be successful. A show with broad appeal can be a key “lightning rod.”
  • Targeting is key. Just because the station plays gold doesn’t mean you need to target 35+, but again every market situation is different.
  • The strategic music map is also important so you have the right era balance. Look for opportunities to specialize.
  • Study what kinds of rhythmic music was exposed in your market in the 80s, 90s and 2000s – we find the appeal for rhythmic flavors varies greatly from market to market due to what music was exposed by radio at that time.

The final aspect to consider is what strategic position your station will be in: You will undoubtedly be in a Flanker position. It is critical to understand how a flanking strategy can work so you can avoid critical blunders. We’ll cover those differences in our next post.