Active rock

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Active rock is a radio format used by many commercial radio stations across the United States and Canada. Active rock plays the popularly demanded new and recent hard rock and heavy metal and some alternative rock songs.

Format background[edit]

Sean Ross, editor of Billboard Airplay Monitor, described active rock in the late 1990s as album-oriented rock (AOR) "with a greater emphasis on the harder end of the spectrum".[1]

An active rock station may include songs by classic rock artists due to popular demand whereas an alternative rock station would not (e.g., Boston, Thin Lizzy). Conversely, unlike classic rock stations, an active rock station also plays music by popular demand of new and recent hard rock and heavy metal artists, which are also usually absent from modern rock radio playlists (e.g., Nothing More, Islander). Active rock station playlists may often include some popular alternative rock and punk rock songs that have crossed over from modern rock radio (e.g., Awolnation, The Gaslight Anthem).

Similar to active rock stations, mainstream rock stations play current rock music, but emphasize classic rock songs more than current rock songs.

A pioneering station of this format in the late 1980s was WIYY "98Rock" in Baltimore, Maryland. Other early adopters of this format by the beginning of the 1990s include stations KISS "99.5 KISS Rocks" in San Antonio, Texas, WAAF in Boston, Massachusetts, WXTB "98Rock" in Tampa, Florida, WGIR-FM "Rock 101" in Manchester, New Hampshire, KEGL "97.1 The Eagle", in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, and WJJO "Solid Rock 94.1 JJO" Madison, Wisconsin. Satellite radio channels include Sirius XM Radio's Octane, and the gold-based Ozzy's Boneyard channel, also on Sirius XM Radio. Former counterparts prior to the November 12, 2008 Sirius/XM channel merger were XM's Squizz and Sirius's BuzzSaw. Australian radio network Triple M Network also uses this format. A later Internet radio station, Frogbox Radio, also began playing an Active rock format as well as in 2013 the launch of ROCK RAGE RADIO.

Active rock stations in Canada also include CFPL-FM in London, Ontario, CJAY 92 in Calgary, Alberta, CFBR-FM in Edmonton, Alberta, CHTZ-FM in St. Catharines, Ontario, CJKR-FM in Winnipeg, Manitoba and CFXY-FM in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Active Rock chart[edit]

Active Rock is a chart published by Billboard that compiles the current hits on active rock radio stations and is used as a component for the Mainstream Rock chart. It is a forty-position chart and solely based on radio airplay. 59 active rock radio stations are electronically monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. Songs are ranked by a calculation of the total number of spins per week with its "audience impression", which is based upon exact times of airplay and each station's Arbitron listener data.

Songs receiving the greatest growth will receive a "bullet", although there are tracks that will also get bullets if the loss in detections doesn't exceed the percentage of downtime from a monitored station. "Airpower" awards are issued to songs that appear on the top 20 of both the airplay and audience chart for the first time, while the "greatest gainer" award is given to song with the largest increase in detections. A song with six or more spins in its first week is awarded an "airplay add". If a song is tied for the most spins in the same week, the one with the biggest increase that previous week will rank higher, but if both songs show the same amount of spins regardless of detection the song that is being played at more stations is ranked higher. Songs that fall below the top 20 and have been on the chart after 20 weeks are removed and go to recurrent status.

See also[edit]

  • Classic rock - some tracks heard on active rock will also appear in the classic rock format, especially older tracks
  • Mainstream rock - similar to active rock, it is a mix of classic rock and modern rock, though it tends to feature a higher proportion of older tracks and avoids hard rock or other loud rock or metal tracks
  • Modern rock - some tracks heard on active rock will also appear in the modern rock format (more so from tracks featured on classic rock)


  1. ^ Toby Eddings, "Active rock finds an Asylum at 93.5," The Sun News, Feb. 7, 1999.

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