Weekly survey: Is it time for alternative fans to move on from grunge and the alt-rock of the 90s?

This week’s question comes from a discussion I had with a radio fan who was wondering why Q107/Toronto–formerly a pure classic rock station–now plays bands like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam. In the city, that music was once the exclusive domain of brother station 102.1 the Edge.

“Why is Q now playing alternative music?” they asked.

Good question. But are they?

A lot of today’s alt-rock fans grew up on and still love the music of the 90s, including grunge, punk like Green Day and The Offspring, and early period Foo Fighters. But check the calendar. Much of those great songs came out 25 and 30 years ago. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out on August 27, 1991. Pearl Jam’s Ten album is just as old. We can add classic albums by Soundgarden, REM, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a ton of others to that list.

Today’s 22-years-old today still into music that old would like 1991’s 22-year-old in 1991 being pre-Beatles rock’n’roll. Can you imagine a young twenty-something being into Percy Faith’s “Theme from a Summer Place?

There’s no question that 90s-era alternative was awesome. Amazing. Brilliant. Beyond excellent. But is it time for today’s alt-rock stations to move on and wean themselves and their audiences away from music that is now firmly in “classic” territory? Time to focus on the NOW and not the past?

Consider that when classic rock radio first appeared in the late 80s, it focused on everything back to the Beatles’ explosion in 1964. Adjust the numbers and early Pearl Jam fits that same playlist template?

Or is this music so good and so important it should this music be part of the alternative world forever? Could it be that age is just a number?

Here are your choices. Where do you land on this topic?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

18 thoughts on “Weekly survey: Is it time for alternative fans to move on from grunge and the alt-rock of the 90s?

  • March 29, 2021 at 10:48 am
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    I deleted Twitter cause it is awful! Somebody let me know what’s winning!

    Reply
    • March 29, 2021 at 2:12 pm
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      I was trying to understand your comment, I think you mean you deleted your twitter app and/or account. The tweet is accessible via a browser:

      https://twitter.com/alancross/status/1376285318152863753?s=20

      Otherwise, since you need to be logged in to vote (& therefore see the results), right now with 1d left:

      19.9% = Yes, focus on the new
      34.8% = No, it’s still relevant
      45.3% = And replace it with what
      (i.e.: 80.1% say no, I’d doubt it will change much)

      Reply
      • March 29, 2021 at 2:49 pm
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        Thanks dude! When I’m on my phone… Twitter won’t let me vote or see results of polls. It just prompts me to sign in or download the app.

        FYI I was in the “And replace it with what?” group!

        Reply
  • March 29, 2021 at 3:38 pm
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    The 90’s stuff on the radio is always the same anyway. It’s not like there’s a whole decade to choose from. It’s no wonder podcasts and streaming is so popular.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 8:54 am
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    Great article, now write one that doesn’t read like a pretentious scumbag wrote it.

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    • March 30, 2021 at 10:37 am
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      Er, how is it pretentious? It’s asking a real question about the state of music. Or can you only hurl insults?

      Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 10:55 am
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    Love your work Alan. Great question. Keep on rocking in the free world.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 12:31 pm
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    There is no reason to ever leave a decade of music behind, especially that decade.

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    • March 31, 2021 at 10:30 am
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      Totally agree the 90’s should never be left behind

      Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 3:39 pm
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    it could be the possible audiences. if younger people are (mainly?) streaming music, then the radio stations have to appeal to those who would (possibly) listen to radio. If the audience does not like the ‘offerings’, then they would likely go somewhere else. Advertising (and revenue) would follow the audience. So, stations could be in a catch-22 position. Change the offerings, to try to entice an audience that may not come or be there? Or appeal to a known audience, even if the offerings are ‘old’.

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  • March 30, 2021 at 4:48 pm
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    Honestly my first reaction was that it sounded pretentious as well. You may not have meant it that way, but it does sound pretentious to indicate anyone should “move on” from music they love. As far as radio, If people are still enjoying the “classic” grunge songs being played on the radio, why would the station ” move on” either. They don’t fit in any with other “classic” music, such as the type you mentioned in this article. ( A summer place? Really?) It may be old alternative, but it is still alternative, and the foundation of the genre.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 8:24 pm
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    I’m old enough to remember when the word alternative meant something. It wasn’t just rock; hip hop and roots music could be alternative too. I’m all for stations pushing the boundaries and not stagnating by playing one style of music (or time period).

    Reply
  • March 30, 2021 at 11:57 pm
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    Exactly.. replace it with what? Go look at what’s considered alt rock now. It’s not even rock it’s borderline dance music and electronic pop. It’s also a false equivalency to say a 22 year old today liking 90’s music is the same as a 22 year old in the 90’s liking pre Beatles music. There’s something about 90’s music that just doesn’t sound old, whereas music from the 50’s and early 60’s sounded very very old in the 90’s.

    Reply
  • March 31, 2021 at 2:11 am
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    New music on radio will not work… Why you ask, well today’s 20-something don’t listen to radio, they stream and plenty of good ones out there. Now for the question of why 90’s is working for the station… it is all those 20-somethings from the 90’s that are now older and don’t stream, and have a hard time to change, so radio works best for them. And they are most likely where the advertising dollars are being gear towards

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  • April 1, 2021 at 4:44 pm
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    AND REPLACE IT WITH WHAT???? 90’s rule. These kids need to be schooled so that maybe, one day, they come up with something better. Until then, listen and learn…

    Reply
    • April 2, 2021 at 11:00 am
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      Amen! I’ve been saying for a few years now the future of music is in the past. Hundreds of thousands of hours of GREAT music is sitting on the vine waiting to inspire somebody. Yeah kids, NO KIDDING Fleetwood Mac “Dreams” is a phenomenal song! It was written by Stevie FREAKIN’ Nicks!

      Here is something that endlessly bums me out. Take a look at Matthew Sweet’s Spotify page. His #1 song is Girlfriend at 14 million spins. Head on over to Powfu’s page… He has a song with 935 million spins!!!! WHAT THE ACTUAL F!

      Reply
  • April 2, 2021 at 4:36 pm
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    Right on! I totally agree!

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  • April 4, 2021 at 6:00 pm
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    Should Beethoven and Mozart be shelved and replaced with contemporary classical music just because it’s old? Seems like an arbitrary reason to me. I’m not a luddite and there are definitely good, modern alternative bands. However, music to me is like food. I wouldn’t just stop eating steak, because as a species we’ve been eating it for too long.

    Reply

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