Beautiful Music

For all intents and purposes Beautiful Music is a dead format. It is still studied because many of the things we take for granted in radio programming were originated by the format. Gordon McLendon introduced the forerunner of Beautiful Music at San Francisco's KABL-AM (called cable) in 1959.

Beautiful Music was the permanent sweeps format. It was the first format to play long stretches of music followed by spot clusters. It was the first format to take up residence on the FM band. Many listeners mistook it for classical music. As a result it was readily accepted. The format began to grow in popularity following the 1965 FCC ruling mandating that owners of AM/FM combinations serving cities with populations of more than 100,000, program their AM and FM stations separately.

Many Middle-Of-The-Road (MOR) AM stations already played soothing bedtime music, hits reinterpreted by the Hollywood strings, Mantavani or the 101 Marimbas, as a regular part of their evening programming. In addition many of these stations used their FM subcarriers to broadcast "Muzak" to area businesses. Automated Beautiful Music allowed broadcast owners to easily comply with the FCC ruling. In addition to being easy to automate, the format sounded good in static-free FM stereo. By the end of the 1960s. Beautiful Music along with Progressive Rock helped raise listeners awareness of FM.



Sweeps, because of listener loyalty Beautiful Music stations had the advantage of taking breaks on the :15, etc. All of those times when programmers advise against taking breaks. Because of the formats reliance on strings, many listeners assumed they were listening to classical music.


Big voice male. Deep resonant. Announcers presence was low. Names were not important. Announcers were limited to reading liners. Morning drive allowed semi personality status. Most announcing was prerecorded and functioned independently from the music.


This was a heavy music format. Expanded news during drive times.


Rare. Programs such as "Sunday with Sinatra" or "Evening with the Pops."

Contests and Promotions

Evenings for two at local dinner theatres. Cruise vacations, cruise to nowhere. On-air promotions were low key.

Public Affairs

Some but not public affairs intensive. Sunday morning time slot. Local.


Very much in keeping with format. Tended to be big voice sound. The original music sweep format. Spot loads tend to be kept low. More spots in drive times.


These station competed with Nostalgia/MOR/Vintage stations, and Soft AC. Surprisingly News & Talk because the format was geared to a well informed generation.


BM has all but died. It may exist somewhere in smaller markets but it is no longer a major FM format. Some stations have experimented with it on the AM band, for example, WISH 560AM Philadelphia. Smooth jazz and soft AC stations perform a similar function today.


Fornatale, P. Mills, J.E. (1980). Radio in the television age. Overlook Press: Woodstock, NY.

Keith, M. C. (1987). Radio programming: Consultancy and formatics. Focal Press: Boston.