Spanish Language Radio Formats
commonly heard in the United States.

Here's a sampler of the music styles you would commonly hear on the different Spanish language radio formats in the United States. Each format is illustrated by a selection of song clips in MP3 format. These songs demonstrate the styles and genres that are usually part of each format.
Just as in U.S. general market radio, some songs will "cross over" and be played on more than one format. In fact, quite a a number of songs are released with different mixes for different formats.
Each broad format section listed below has a variety of songs taken from the "most played" songs of 2010 based on radio monitor reports as well as a variety of "oldies" or "gold" cuts from earlier years. First, though, a look at the appeal of the major formats. 
This website is presented by
Arbitron For a ratings perspective, click on the logo to the left and, download and read this PDF report from Arbitron about the US Hispanic radio market.

This table from Arbitron showing the national share of Hispanic listening to the various formats on the radio. As can be seen, a percentage of listening goes to English language stations.

Some formats have low national shares, because they are of appeal only in certain areas. Tropical and rhythmic variants may represent significant shares along the East Coast, but no shares at all elsewhere. This reduces the national average despite specific appeal to certain groups.
Arbitron definitions may differ from the descriptions on this page only because Arbitron tries to keep the total number of definitions as small as practical to allow advertisers to see the broad picture of radio.
Spanish Language Radio Formats
Click on the format name to go to a page with full details on that format.
Primary Music Formats
This format is really a combination of the many musical styles of Mexico; stations may vary widely in their mix of genres but the principal ones are norteña, banda, and ranchera. Regional formats may also include some grupera, cumbia, bachata, durangüense, sierreño and alterado sounds. This format is called "Grupera" in México, but under either name, the general content and style is the same. 




"Contemporary" is the term applied to a format group that includes everything from Adult Contemporary to Pop, CHR and Reggaetón based rhythmic formats. 

Adult Contemporary (A/C) is a combination of old and new softer pop and romantic love ballads and lighter pop. There may be considerable overlap with pop CHR stations with slower rotations (repeat patterns) than CHR. 

Pop (often called Spanish language CHR after its somewhat comparable English language equivalent) is an ever-changing  mix of pop, dance, Latin house and hip-hop, rock, reggaetón, ballads and other contemporary music types. The overlap with Adult Contemporary is considerable. These stations are more current based than A/C formats.

Reggaetón and Rhythmic was for a time in the early 00's a format of its own, but few such stations remain, all in Puerto Rico. Now, the elements of this format have gone mainstream and are part of pop formats and some songs even cross over to A/C.  Evolving Caribbean tropical formats may include some of the songs, as might Rhythmic Crossover formats.
Rhythmic Crossover There is a growing attempt to create stations for second generation Hispanics... those who were born in the U.S. but who prefer a blend of mostly English language pop with a smattering of the big hits in Spanish. Some refer to this audience segment as "H2O" meaning the second generation of Hispanics.This format is constantly evolving as station operators reach out for a way to deliver listeners who don't generally use all-Spanish language stations.
This "oldies" blend is a broad mix of 70's, 80's, 90's and '00's sounds that were popular across Mexico.  The format generally includes classic songs from genres that include adult contemporary ballads, softer pop, grupera, ranchera, light norteña, and cumbia...
This format previously was limited to salsa and merengue with an occasional bachata or cumbia derivitive, but now may include reggaetón and other rhythmic options. 
Secondary or Specialty Formats
The Colombian cumbia is the base for this format. Mexican artists adopted the style back in the 60's and have added special touches, such as the norteña and the grupera style cumbia to the formula. In the US, cumbia may be an element to regional Mexican.
Pop & AC
60's to 80's based format limited to pop, ballads and rock 'n' roll songs by artists from Latin America & Spain. The pure pop and AC oldies variant is now generally restricted to Puerto Rico and there are no examples on the U.S. mainland since the early 2012 format flip by Clásica 92.3 in Miami (now a salsa / tropical format).
A format based on ranchera and mariachi songs, usually covering many decades of music, sometimes back to the 50's. Because it appeals to older listeners it is almost always an AM format. The format tends to include some older norteñan, too.
Tejano This format is on only a handful of stations today, but has been a significant factor in Texas markets in the past. It now tends to blend Tejano  with norteña and other styles
other Countries
There are many other kinds of music that have appeal within communities in the US with specific national heritage. Some songs may be included in other formats or there may be specific shows on stations for these communities and styles. A few examples are presented.