A rather low key evolution is taking place within the rock format of stations that are moving away from the niche strategy that's been in place since the mid 80s. When Classic Rock and Alternative stations first appeared as destinct formats we began to see more sub dividing of the rock cell to Active Rock, Adult Alternative, Classic Hits, Classic Rock that Rocks, and many of the older AOR outlets, that played both library and currents, quickly moved to all Classic Rock before a competitor lobbed off their older listeners.
Over the last year or 18 months we've seen a swing back to stations that cover as many as 4 decades of rock music. Sets can range from a Beatles track to the lastest from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Perhaps it's a reaction to all the 'Jack' - We Play Anything stations, but it becoming a viable option. Witness the recent move by KDKB in Phoenix.
We've been working with this approach at WBFX in Grand Rapids and seen the station start to emerge in a race that had 2 stations fighting over the Classic Rock position. There are many different approaches in the era balance and tempo of the stations with so many great testing titles to choose from over a 40 year span. The real target here is a space between the older Classic Rock stations, that are quickly becoming a 42 or even 45 plus landscape, and the Active/Alternative stations that are mainly 18-34 in their appeal. The target here is the 30 something and early 40 somethings that grew up from 1985 to 1998.
The big Classic Rock artists had mostly faded or broke up, but they still grew up on a healthy dose of the music on the rock stations they listened to at the time. They also evolved through the harder rockers of the late 80s, the Grunge movement in the 90s, the Alternative and Active rock growth in the late 90s and early 2000+ era. One look at their I-Pods and you'll see a lot more variety than the 500 songs most Classic Rock or Active Rock outlets feature.
This approach doesn't jump through the roof like some of the more successful Jack style stations. Much of that lies in the Marketing. Jacks come on with a unique name, a full imaging package that stands out, and the successful ones market a lot more than most rock stations. You can't just fill up the studio hard drive with a bunch of tunes anymore and expect everyone to notice. Hopefully we'll see this approach take hold - but it won't happen on the music alone. In today's new media and crowded terestial radio markets you have to do a lot more than just play the right music - that's easy.