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September 10th, 2008

Classically Rockin’

Pinger Greg and I ended up having a Pingish discussion over email, so I thought I’d share it out here.

Recently he wrote me and mentioned at a local radio station, WDRV, whose playlist has been classic rock – Beatles, The Who, Stones, et al – had been moving into newer and newer territory. This past week they played “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, which is 13 years old, and “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas, which is 9 years old. They’ve also played R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, 17 years old. It’s possible that this station is going after listeners that other ones, including WXRT, has abandoned. But it also begs the question of what “classic rock” is. Is it a moving target – any song 15 years old or older? Or is there a certain time period (say, 1960-1980) that qualifies?

It’s a tough call because in time, people who think of 1960-1980 as a classic rock period won’t listen to the radio anymore at all. Or, more precisely, they won’t be part of a key demographic with lots of disposable income. Not saying that cynically but factually. So do you still try to go after those same folks, or shift things so you can get more younger listeners? It’s a business, so….

It does seem that “classic rock” is subjective. People born after 1980, for instance, may see 1995-2015ish as their “classic rock” period, and a lot of this stuff falls under a “modern rock” banner for me. Radiohead, whom I consider to be fairly cutting edge in mainstream rock today, will be a classic rock band someday (soonish?) and eventually be seen as a nostalgia act.

This extends to other genres of music too. The big question is, where’s the line when something moves from classic to old?

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

Dave Walls September 10, 2008, 3:33 pm

Coming from a radio programmer’s point of view, it has more to do with the attitude and style of the music, and how well it holds up. There’s no way an active rock station is going to play the Santana/Rob Thomas song, or Counting Crows (yuck), but they still belong on the radio somewhere, as people like to hear them. That said, you can hear 20+ year old Metallica songs on active rock stations in Philly, same with Van Halen.

It all depends on how your audience reacts, and every market is different. For the most part, you just know it’s a classic rock song when you hear it.

Steve A September 10, 2008, 10:29 pm

It’s all subjective. It’s much like the terms “vintage” or “antique.” Vintage, to me, is stuff I remember as a kid. Antique is stuff my grandparents had. Put that in perspective, my grandkids see stuff in my house that’d be antiques to them but barely vintage to me.


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