“Classic” Rock

And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

Walt Hickey, a writer for FiveThiryEight decided to do some research after this happened to him. He wanted to know what exactly went into classifying classic rock as classic rock.

I have found myself asking similar questions of radio stations play choices over the years. There is always a song that plays that feels out if place, but after reading this article, it makes a lot more sense.

Hickey sampled classic rock stations from all over the nation for one week and compared the frequency of artists, songs, and years songs were released.


What he foind made sense, at least to me,. The large majority of classic rock songs were from the 70’s into the early 80’s and included bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin. However, there was a surprising amount of more modern (seemingly not classic) artists that fell on the spectrum like U2, Metallica, and Green Day.

As it turns out, it’s actually the listeners that determine what is played in what station. Radio stations use surveys to find our what music consumers like and what genres they think bands fit into. They then build their playlists from there.

I found this very interesting; that it was we the consumers that ultimately shape the genre over time, not an algorithm or a group of suits in a tower somewhere. Of course the genre is ultimately created by the artists themselves, but we decide what bin they fit into, or sometimes, create a new bin for a new kind of sound.


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