For British music fans, radio is still one of the most popular ways to discover new artists and listen to their favorite songs.
Although UK citizens are increasingly turning to other media options such as podcasts and online streaming, 89 per cent still listen to the radio on a weekly basis.
But what kind of music do the British listen to?
For the most part, radio music genres in the UK share many similarities with options found in the rest of the western world. That said, the UK has some interesting, culturally oriented genres that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here’s your guide to the music genres you can find on UK radio stations.
The music genres available on UK radio stations
British broadcasting is full of a huge range of different styles of music. Some genres of music on UK radio stations, such as rock and pop, are commonplace, while others are more unique.
First, let’s look at some of the most popular music genres available to UK listeners.
Rock is a popular genre of music in the UK, and there are several different sub-genres to consider.
UK stations play indie, alternative, pop, heavy metal, progressive and hard rock playlists alongside standard rock stations.
You may also find some slightly more unusual rock options, such as goth or punk rock, on certain UK channels that are less common in regions like the US.
Like many other countries, the UK has a deep love for pop music and ranks it among the top genres in the country.
In addition to standard classical and contemporary pop, listeners in the UK pop landscape also enjoy various sub-categories of pop, such as synth pop (an electronic-infused style of pop music), indie pop and traditional pop.
Many of the UK’s leading radio stations also follow a Top 40 or UK Singles Chart format featuring various pop artists.
Electronic music and its various subgenres are relatively common in the UK.
As well as classical electro as it is commonly referred to in the British countryside, electronic music channels may also play electronic dance music, drum and bass, dubstep, new wave music and trance music.
All of these genres generally involve a lot of synthetic sounds created with electronic instruments.
Although country music is not as well known in Britain as it is in America, it is rapidly gaining popularity.
Many radio stations now offer classic and contemporary country playlists and various sub-genres with a similar country twist.
Some country music stations also play folk and world music by popular American artists.
jazz and soul music
Jazz and soul music are separate genres that are often mixed up in the UK radio landscape. The same stations best known for playing classical and contemporary jazz may also be broadcasting rhythm and blues songs.
As in many parts of the world, some UK radio stations specialize in broadcasting songs from different environments and cultures.
World music radio stations may feature Latin music, bhangra playlists, jungle music (a type of sound borrowed from the UK rave scene) and reggae.
Rap and hip hop music
Rap and hip hop music also have a large following in the UK. Some stations combine these genres with contemporary R&B and similar sounds.
Rap and hip-hop can also be heard on adult contemporary hit radio stations alongside disco music, big beat songs and dance music.
What music genres are specific to UK radio?
As mentioned above, while many of the music genres covered by British radio stations exist elsewhere in the world, the UK has a unique music culture with various interesting sub-genres.
Common forms of music, found primarily in the UK, include:
- British pop: Britpop became popular in the 1990s and was a music culture movement that emphasized Britishness. A lighter form of alternative rock emerged, responding to the darker lyrical themes of American music of the time.
- UK garage: While garage music has popped up in various parts of the world, UK garage music is a unique genre of its own. It is a form of electronic music that evolved from house music, R&B, jungle music and dance-pop.
- Dubstep: Dubstep, a genre of electronic dance music that used to be quite popular in regions around the world, originated in south London. It is usually characterized by rhythmic patterns and deep sub-bass frequencies.
- Drums and bass: Similar to dubstep, drum and bass is a form of dance and electronic music characterized by fast breakbeats, heavy bass, and sub-bass lines. It is often based on sampled sounds and synthesizers.
- Dirt: Grime, another form of electronic dance music unique to the UK, originated in London in the early 2000s. Characterized by syncopated breakbeats, it features aggressive and gruff electronic sounds and rap.
- EDM: Electronic dance or club music is a form of dance music originally developed for the British dance scene. It was popularized by raves, festivals and nightclubs across the British countryside.
What are the most popular music genres in the UK?
Whilst UK radio fans certainly have many options when browsing the genres of radio music, figuring out which genres of music are the most popular is not easy.
A 2022 Statista report found that pop and adult contemporary music were the top-choice music genres by most radio listeners in the UK, followed by rock, alternative and indie music.
This research is also supported by studies from YouGov profiles which revealed that both Brits and Americans prefer pop and rock music as their preferred genres.
But while the Brits are very fond of R&B and classical music, Americans tend to prefer country stations.
With many of the UK’s most popular stations such as BBC Radio 1 and Capital FM tending to play different pieces of music from different genres such as pop, rock and R&B, it’s fair to say that preferences across the UK are likely to vary quite a bit.