Adult standards (also sometimes known as the nostalgia format) is aimed at "mature" adults, meaning mainly those persons over 50 years of age, but it is mostly targeted for senior citizens. It is primarily on AM because market research reveals that only persons in that age group listen to music on AM in sizable numbers. Adult standards first became a popular format in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a way to reach mature adults who came of age before the rock era but were perhaps too mature for adult contemporary radio or too young for beautiful music. A typical adult standards playlist includes popular music standards by artists such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, some "easy listening" numbers from Roger Whittaker and others, and softer tunes from the oldies and adult contemporary formats. The format once included big band music, particularly from the 1940s and 1950s, though the oldest songs have been de-emphasized on most stations. Younger artists who record in the big-band era style, such as Harry Connick, Jr. or Diana Krall, may be played as well; some stations will occasionally include former old-time radio series programs such as Fibber McGee & Molly or I Love a Mystery as a change of pace. Some adult standards stations air When Radio Was, a daily old-time radio retrospective currently hosted by Greg Bell.
At one time there were several hundred such stations, a number that has declined to approximately 200 as of 2012. Because the adult standards audience has increased in age to the point where many of its listeners have either died or are no longer attractive to advertisers, and because AM radio (long the province of the format) has itself been in severe decline, the format as it is known today (much like the contemporary decline of oldies and smooth jazz formats, along with the earlier demise of easy listening) is likely to die out. Most independently programmed former adult standards stations have transitioned to other formats such as oldies, classic hits, or adult contemporary music that have similar music but skew toward more modern songs.
Only about a handful of adult standards stations today are live and locally programmed around-the-clock. Many have affiliated with nationally distributed satellite formats to cut costs; due to advertiser perceptions about the audiences these stations primarily target, a large number of adult standards stations have trouble selling airtime to advertisers, which makes them unprofitable. For example, KIXI 880 AM, serving the Seattle market and KKIN 930 AM partway, terminated its local airstaff to affiliate with the Music of Your Life network. Many others have simply dumped the format altogether, often for all-talk or all-sports formats, oldies, or other formats deemed more profitable than standards by management.
Music of Your Life was an adult standards satellite delivered format that probably more than any other source defined the format. Music of Your Life, which was founded by Al Ham in 1978 and boasts a roster of well-known personalities including Deana Martin, Peter Marshall and weekend host Pat Boone, was distributed by Jones Radio Networks. A dispute between the Music of Your Life CEO and former PD and host Chcuk Southcott along with former jocks Wink Martindale and Gary Owens (among others) over lack of payment led to Owens, Martindale and company splitting off and Jones ultimately deciding to abandon the format at the end of 2007 and introduce a new format of its own (since merged into the Dial Global format). Music of Your Life is still distributed independently. Los Angeles radio legend Johnny Magnus rejoined the format in 2008.
Dial Global (formerly part of Westwood One) has an adult standards format distributed via satellite; Dial Global's is called "Adult Standards" (known on-air as "America's Best Music"). Prior to 2010, ABC distributed Stardust/Timeless Classics/Timeless. Stardust/Timeless Classics was consolidated with a soft oldies/AC network owned by ABC-—Unforgettable Favorites/Memories—-in 2006, creating "Timeless". Westwood One originally called its format AM Only and for a time, as the name suggests, offered the format only to AM stations; today, a handful of FM stations also air Westwood One's format.
While Music of Your Life has not eliminated all of the big-band and traditional pop music from its playlist, Westwood One and ABC dropped much of the older music in favor of softer pop and rock oldies from the 1960s and 1970s top 40 era and a good deal of soft AC material as well. Under Dial Global, some of the older-style songs are making a comeback on the Westwood One format. ABC discontinued its Timeless service early in 2010; that same year, Music of Your Life added more 1960s oldies to its playlist.
Artists typically heard on adult standards radio stations may include the following:
Some noteworthy terrestrial (AM & FM land-based) radio stations featuring the adult standards format today include:
|Call sign||Frequency||City of License||Website||Additional Notes|
|CFJL-FM||100.7 FM||Winnipeg, Manitoba|| Stream||Like The "Jewel"-branded stations, CFJL have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Lite & Refreshing" However, traditional Standards are still played at night.|
|CFZM||740 AM||Toronto, Ontario|| Stream||Believed to be the only remaining adult standards-formatted station in North America broadcasting on a 50,000-watt clear channel signal. Selections are announced on air. Has a strong international following.|
|CISL||650 AM||Vancouver, British Columbia|| Stream|
|CJNU-FM||107.9 FM||Winnipeg, Manitoba|| Stream|
|CJWL-FM||98.5 FM||Ottawa, Ontario|| Stream||The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.|
|CKDX-FM||88.5 FM||Newmarket, Ontario|| Stream||The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.|
|CKHK-FM||107.7 FM||Hawkesbury, Ontario|| Stream||The "Jewel"-branded stations have recently moved more toward Soft AC and identify with the moniker "Refreshing Lite Hits." However, traditional Standards are still played at night.|
|CKPC-FM||92.1 FM||Brantford, Ontario|| Stream|
|KAAM||770 AM||Garland, Texas|| Stream|
|Springfield, Missouri|| Stream|
|KCEE||690 AM||Tucson, Arizona|| Stream|
|KDKK||97.5 FM||Park Rapids, Minnesota||Stream||Locally originating music format. Installation of Microsoft Silverlight required for stream.|
|KKIN||930 AM||Aitkin, Minnesota||This station has started to become more adult contemporary and classic hits format, although few traditional standards are played|
|KEZW||1430 AM||Denver, Colorado|
|KFSD||1450 AM||Escondido, California|||
|KGIL||1260 AM||Los Angeles, California|||
|KHAR||590 AM||Anchorage, Alaska||||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|KIXI||880 AM||Seattle, Washington||Stream||50 Kw daytime, 10 Kw nights.|
|KJWL||99.3 FM||Fresno, California|||
|KLBB||1220 AM||Stillwater, Minnesota|| Stream||Airs both Music of Your Life and America's Best Music|
|KMRY||1450 AM||Cedar Rapids, Iowa|
|KOY||1230 AM||Phoenix, Arizona||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|KQSO||102.9 FM||Newberg, Oregon||||Also airs locally originated Amateur Radio News|
|KSPA||1510 AM||Ontario, California|||
|KTUC||1400 AM||Tucson, Arizona|| Stream|
|KZQX||100.3 FM||Tatum, Texas|| Stream|
|Fort Wayne, Indiana|| Stream||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|Cheektowaga, New York||||Returned to the format in 2013 after seven years (during which the station dabbled in classic country, sports talk and MOR). WECK was a commercially successful standards station from 1981 to 2006.|
|WHYL||960 AM||Carlisle-Harrisburg, PA|||
|WJAS||1320 AM||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|
|WJAX||1220 AM||Jacksonville, Florida||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format; operated by Jones College which also owns Beautiful Music sister station WKTZ-FM.|
|WJIB||740 AM||Cambridge, Massachusetts|
|WJUB||1420 AM||Plymouth, Wisconsin||Stream||Independently programmed with Adult Standards format since 2003; operated by Jubilation Ministries, which also owns sister station WSTM-FM, which plays a Christian Praise and Worship format.|
|WKHR||91.5 FM||Cleveland, Ohio|| Stream||Owned by the Kenston Local School District and programmed by both community volunteers and Kenston High School students|
|WLEZ-LP||100.1 FM||Jackson, Mississippi|| Stream|
|WLHC||103.1 FM||Sanford, North Carolina|||
|WMBN||1340 AM||Petoskey, Michigan||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|WMNI||920 AM||Columbus, Ohio||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|WNBP||1450 AM||Newburyport, Massachusetts|||
|WQUN||1220 AM||Hamden, Connecticut||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|WHTX||1570 AM||Warren, Ohio|| Stream||Airs Dial Global Local's The Lounge format|
|WMPX/WMRX||1490 AM/97.7 FM||Midland, Michigan||||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format|
|WLEC||1450 AM||Sandusky, Ohio||||Airs Dial Global Local's The Lounge format|
|WMBS||590 AM||Uniontown, Pennsylvania|| Stream|
|WDDV||1320 AM||Venice, Florida|| Stream|
|WSDV||1450 AM||Sarasota, Florida|| Stream||Full-time simulcast of WDDV|
|WSEG||1400 AM||Savannah, Georgia|| Stream||Airs Dial Global's America's Best Music format; simulcast on FM translator 104.3|
|WSVU||960 AM 95.9 FM 106.9 FM||North Palm Beach, Florida|
|WBNJ||91.9 FM||Barnegat, New Jersey|||
Moving into the 21st Century, adult standards have been given a lift as a format by new media, such as:
- Sirius XM Channel 4, The 40s on 4, programmed by legendary music format programmer Marlin Taylor.
- Sirius XM Channel 5, The 50s on 5, playing some older pre rock and roll era music along with some newer rock and roll hits from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
- Sirius 75 and XM 73, Siriusly Sinatra (formerly entitled Standard Time before February 2007)
- XM Satellite Radio The 40s on 4, XM Satellite Radio Channel 4
Internet radio stations have given loyal lovers of standards and nostalgia more listening options than perhaps any other medium as the 21st Century unfolds. Advantages include more independent style programming geared for a worldwide audience. Some Internet radio stations blend in classic vocal music from Europe and Latin America. Programming venues vary from singular independently programmed stations on stand-a-lone websites, to entire groups of independently programmed stations grouped together under a format heading. Some of the latest stations include Sweet Memories Radio, some of the most popular services include Live365.com, Pandora, iTunes and other web radio media.
- Martini in the Morning - http://www.martiniinthemorning.com
- Live365 Sweet Memories Radio - http://www.live365.com/stations/sweetmemoriesradio
- Live365 Canukteach Crooners - http://www.live365.com/stations/funkyville_croon
- Live365 Music From The Bluelight - http://www.live365.com/stations/john262
- AccuRadio Swingin' Pop Standards - http://www.accuradio.com/standards/
- The Lounge Sound Happy Hour Music - Vegas Style http://www.theloungesound.ca