Rhythmic adult contemporary is the name of a popular format used on radio stations in the United States and Canada. It is aimed at the demographic aged 25 to 54. Stations using this format play disco from the 1970s and early 1980s, dance/pop music, adult-friendly hip hop/old school tracks, R&B, dance/freestyle of the 1980s and house music of the late 1980s/early 1990s. Like many adult contemporary radio stations, rhythmic AC stations normally do not play rap. These stations often compete with rhythmic top 40 stations as well as other adult contemporary stations.

Format history

The first station to try this approach was WHBT/Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which lasted from 1986 to 1987, although it was more Hot AC in nature. But eight years later in 1996, another Milwaukee outlet, WAMG, "Magic 103.7", would be the first to pioneer the "Official" rhythmic AC format, calling itself "Rhythm & Romance" which featured Mid-tempo Rhythmic R&B/Pop tracks (ironically, Milwaukee would once again pick up a Rhythmic AC for the third time in December 2014, when WZTI filled the void after an eighteen-year gap, although that station leaned towards rhythmic oldies; they would flip to Oldies in August 2015 after dismal ratings). In February 1996, WYNY in New York City flipped to the format under the name "103.5 KTU", utilizing a "Rhythmic Hot AC" approach with Dance-Pop tracks added to the mix. The station instantly skyrocketed to #1 in the New York City Arbitron ratings in the next book. Because of this, other stations, like WDRQ/Detroit and KIBB/Los Angeles flipped to the format (while WDRQ was well received in the ratings, KIBB was less successful, resulting in a flip to a format they pioneered: "rhythmic oldies", in November 1997). In 1999, CFGL-FM in Montreal, Quebec, Canada made its debut in the format by using the "Rythme FM" name. However, the Rythme FM network is now adult contemporary. Beginning in 2006, there has been a trend of several stations in the United States switching to the rhythmic AC format using the brand Movin, which debuted on Seattle station KQMV in May of that year. However, Clear Channel Communications seems to have benefitted the most from this format, thanks to using one of its outlets, WKTU/New York City, as its basis for several of its stations.

Rhythmic AC stations also play "Classic Dance Flashbacks" of dance music ten years or older. Some radio stations usually play soft dance music on weeknights. News and weather announcements play a major part in this format unlike their younger counterparts. Also, many radio stations using this format often play a great deal of disco heavily on weekend nights.

During the mid-2000s, when the format started to gain popularity, many hot adult contemporary stations in Canada started to follow a Rhythmic AC approach, but still remain Hot AC because of pop-rock content still being played. This was first pioneered by CHUM-FM in Toronto, who had a significant ratings success after starting to lean rhythmic. This approach has worked well in Montreal, where CKBE has had more success with the Rhythmic Hot AC format since its shift from AC in 2011. Unlike CHUM-FM, the currents on CKBE's playlist are more Dance and Rhythmic leaning.

As of 2010, several Rhythmic AC outlets have shifted to a conventional urban-leaning Rhythmic Contemporary direction (WDTW, WKTU, KPLV), while others have tweaked their approach by incorporating the music into either Top 40/CHR (KMVQ, KQMV, KTFM) or Adult Top 40 (WISX), in part due to declining ratings and trying to adapt currents into this niche genre.

In January 2013, former news/talk outlet WTKK in Boston flipped to the format. The station's ratings, which were low, have significantly improved to compete effectively with Rhythmic Top 40 WJMN. The station's playlist, initially, had a balance of dance-pop tracks and rhythmic classics, as well as current rhythmic/pop material, but by July 2013, the playlist has shifted to a more urban lean. This revival success story of the format spawned a few similar stations later that year, including KHTP in Seattle, KSSX in San Diego and KRBQ in San Francisco, as well as (for a short time) WIQI in Chicago. In January 2015, KKGQ/Wichita was relaunched with the same Rhythmic AC presentation that was previously offered by its successor KMXW from 2004 to 2007, except this time around, it was more focused on current Rhythmic and Mainstream Pop hits and recurrents from the 1990s and 2000s (KMXW's presentation had an emphasis on 1970s and 1980s product). (That station would completely shift towards Hot AC by October 2015, with most of the Rhythmic material being moved to evening hours.) Also in 2015, KJHM in Denver shifted to the format after spending its first 5 years with rhythmic oldies, marking the second station with the format in the market, the first being KPTT from 2006 to 2009.

List of recording artists whose records are played on rhythmic AC radio stations

List of radio stations using this format

United States


Internet stations

Former stations that used this format