Pat Paxton is the President of Programming at Entercom Communications.
When Fred Jacobs created the Classic Rock format 30 years ago, some people were excited, but most were cynical, as most always are with any new format. Since CR was created, Jammin’ Oldies, the next big classic rock, hit big then struggled. The all 80’s format hit big then burned out in 18 months. More recently, the Classic Hip Hop format has, in many markets gone from first to worst faster than they went from worst to first. Longevity and consistency were lacking with all these formats, as well as others that have been tried. However, Classic Rock not only continues to thrive, it continues to dominate! Check out ratings in most markets. There is a Classic Rock station near the top. Sometimes two! How can this be? It’s the timelessness and quality of the music, the programmers ability to relate library music to not only what was happening then, but how it affects what is happening today and because of great programmers ability to image, position, and own some of the greatest music ever recorded.
Probably one of the most surprising phenomenon’s I’ve seen over the past couple of years is the resurgence of Classic Rock music with 18-34 years olds. I don’t say this based on a one off study. I say it based on seeing it happen over and over again. Younger people who grew up with their parents listening to classic rock appreciate great music. They like rap, rock and reggae. They are not locked into a certain style. They love great music, and they recognize classic rock as great music. This, in addition to the evolution of the format, the evolution of what is defined as “classic rock”, will allow this 30 year old format to continue to get ratings as if it the hottest, newest format out there.