In the Olden Days–the 1970s and early 80s–there was only one flavour of rock radio on FM. AOR–album-oriented rock–played music that was harder than what AM stations played and had a reputation for going deeper tracks on albums. There were subtle differences from station to station, but they all played a wide-ranging form of rock.
As time went on, though, there was format fragmentation. Soft rock. Hard (or “active” rock). Alternative. Classic. This made a lot of sense as stations began to chance specific audiences and certain demographics.
Now, though, this approach doesn’t make as much sense. Today’s music fans–especially the young–are much more ecumenical in their tastes. Radio consultant Sean Ross asks if it might be time to return to the days where there was just one type of rock radio.
Is it time for current-based rock radio to become one format again?
His focus was mostly country radio, but during his keynote at Tuesday’s RAIN Summit Nashville, Big Machine Label Group President/CEO Scott Borchetta talked about rock radio’s recent travails. Rock’s weakness, he said, was due to its splintering into multiple charts—modern rock, active rock, and, in some cases, mainstream or heritage rock. That was why, Borchetta said, he had personally opposed any attempt to fragment the country chart.
While the opposition of Borchetta and many on Music Row to fragmentation goes back for decades, you think he might come around now that Big Machine and radio group owner Cumulus have partnered on a NASH Icon record label specializing in heritage artists, like Reba McEntire. Labels like having radio move in lockstep, but two charts might have sped up the brutal 26-to-40-week incubation time of some hits.