Classic Rock started around 25 years ago as one of the first sub folders of the origional AOR/Rock formats of the 70s. When you go back to the 80s most rock outlets had pretty much the same approach of 40% currents and 60% older songs dating back to the late 60s.
As Classic Rock began to spread many AOR/Rock outlets became pretty defensive on the library side of their music mix. It was a period when AOR was moving from it's dominance of 18-24s to having enough 25-40 year old listeners to start winning the all important 25-54 demo. Of course a format that targeted just the 25-40s at the time was not just a threat to the 12 plus braging rights - this was danger to the bottom line in the sales department. Many a GM and Owner issued the command to either join the format now or be prepared to win when it comes.
By the time we hit the 90s rock radio had undergone a complete transition. Now there were 4 emerging formats (Alternative, Active Rock, Classic Rock and the AOR/Rock as well as a few scattered Adult Alternatives). In many ways the Classic Rock format was the golden one with strong 25-54 shares and the easiest for the sales deparment to work with for clients.
But, where does it stand now? When you look at the music mix most Classic Rock stations focus on rock titles from 1967 to 1988. The average year is 1978 to maybe 1980 - 30 years ago. If you were in High School in 1979 you are now 45 to 48 years old in the last phase of the 25-54 demo. This group made up 2/3rds or more of the 25-54 demo in the 90s and now it's around a 1/3rd.
A decade ago we saw the same situation with the Oldies stations. While many had consistent strong 12+ ranks they had fallen too far down in 25-54s as their audience aged. The format moved from being mostly a 50s and 60s world to a whole new era balance.
The make over for Oldies in most cases forced a whole new position and often a name change. The word 'oldies' meant Elvis to the late 60s to the audience and had to completely evolve. Still the former oldies stations are still challenged in 25-54 and their audience is still aging out of the key demo. They have put a finger in the dike, but the dam is still cracking.
Classic Rock faces the same challenges. For most of the audience the format IS the 70s and 80s. When you try to move beyond Guns and Roses in the late 80s it's tough to convince the P1 audience that this is also Classic Rock.
While there are still good 25-40 shares for many Classic Rockers and we even see good 18-24s once in a while when you get a few in the sample that like to play in mom and dad's record collection the days are numbered. As you break out 25-34s and 35-44s you can see the down trends although they are often offset by the strength of 45-54s.
How will Classic Rock evolve it's music mix to maintain it's 25-54 strength? It's a big question and D-Day is fast approaching.