Note: re-wrote this from the original since BTS is making their comeback this month.
BTS dropped their third full length album Love Yourself: Tear and their title track “Fake Love” on May 18th. I grew up following Billboard and how they determine chart rankings, so I decided to write a guide for American ARMYs (read. BTS fandom name) who are going to request their song on the radio (here’s a list of all of the radio stations that report to Nielsen & Billboard).
I know fans have been focused solely Top 40 radio but BTS tends to experiment with different sounds and genres and Top 40 can get a little finicky at times about what gets played on their format. For example, a lot of hip hop/R&B songs struggle to get played on Top 40 radio, which isn’t good if BTS releases a hip hop song this time around. Plus, getting BTS played on different formats means they get more airplay, which affects their ranking on Billboard charts and exposes them to more music fans in America.
I’ll be breaking down some of the radio formats that I feel BTS would do well in and which Billboard charts each format influences. So let’s get started shall we?
Top 40/Contemporary hit radio
Pop radio is one of the largest formats in radio so ARMYs should still focus on Top 40. Airplay from Top 40 stations is used to determine rankings for Billboard’s Pop Songs chart, Dance/Mix Show Airplay (which ranks the most popular EDM songs on dance, pop and rhythmic stations), Radio Songs chart (which tracks airplay from different stations across multiple genres) and of course the Hot 100. But keep in mind that songs that do well in different formats usually open the door to crossover and become major pop hits.
Hot Adult contemporary
Adult contemporary (AC) is a complicated term. It traditionally refers to a format that plays music that is more ballad-driven but has been split into several different subgenres covering different styles of music such as soft rock, urban, etc. Hot adult contemporary targets men and women between the ages of 18-54 plays a mix of older hits, alternative rock, pop and R&B music, but doesn’t play hip-hop, rap, teen pop, or hard rock. Artists like Maroon 5, Pink and Kelly Clarkson do very well in this format and acts like Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes have managed to crossover into this format. Getting BTS on Hot AC is a good start in removing that “teenage heartbreaker” image Americans have towards them. Airplay from Hot AC stations is used in Billboard’s Adult Top 40, Radio Songs and Hot 100 chart.
Urban contemporary is a radio format that plays hip hop, R&B and rap music. Urban radio has steadily grown to be the third most listened to genre in radio, which makes sense considering R&B/hip hop is the most popular genre in America right now. I recommend keeping this format in mind, since BTS originally started out as a hip hop group and still releases hip hop/R&B songs from time to time (think Not Today or I Like It pt.1 & pt.2). Airplay from mainstream urban radio is used in Billboard’s Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, Hot R&B/Hip Hop Airplay, Mainstream R&B/Hip Hop (this chart only tracks airplay from mainstream urban and urban adult contemporary stations), Rhythmic Top 40 and Radio Songs chart.
Rhythmic contemporary is another format that people find confusing. It’s like a bridge between Top 40 and urban contemporary. You’ll hear more hip hop and R&B on a rhythmic station than you would on a Top 40 station and you’ll definitely hear more pop and EDM than you would on urban radio. You’ll hear artists like Rihanna, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Selena Gomez on rhythmic radio. Airplay from rhythmic stations is used in Billboard’s Hot 100, Radio Songs, Rhythmic Top 40 and Dance/Mix Show Airplay.
Yes, you read that right, I’m suggesting we get BTS played on alternative radio. You probably think I’m crazy to think such a thing. Whenever you think of alternative music, rock bands like Arcade Fire, Coldplay or Imagine Dragons cross your mind. But times are changing and as alternative artists lean more towards pop and EDM, alternative radio is taking following suit (The Weeknd and The Chainsmokers have been played on alternative radio). Plus, some can argue that K-pop is an alternative to American music so it just makes sense for BTS to get played on this format. Airplay from alternative radio influences Billboard’s Hot 100, Radio Songs and Alternative Songs chart.
So, that’s about it. I hope I was able to explain some of the different music radio formats in America and how they can affect the Billboard charts. I’m hoping this article can serve as a guide for ARMYs whenever BTS has a comeback or when the members release solo projects.
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