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Music Choice added 1990s' alternative to its classic alternative station in late 2011.
- New Wave: A major part of this category, especially early bands like The Cars and Talking Heads.
- Power pop: Bands such as The Knack and The Romantics are often included in this category.
- College rock: The early works of R.E.M. (in particular) and They Might Be Giants occasionally show up on classic alternative stations.
- Early post-punk: Rare on many classic alternative stations, but often added for variety. Artists include New Order and U2.
- Grunge: Sometimes played on classic alternative stations, but more often found on modern rock stations. Includes artists such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
- Synthpop: Bands such as Duran Duran, The Human League and Information Society and songs like "I Ran (So Far Away)" by A Flock of Seagulls and "Take On Me" by a-ha are essential on classic alternative stations.
- Shoegaze: Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, Cocteau Twins, and Jesus and Mary Chain.
- New Romantic: Bands such as Pet Shop Boys
- Ska Revival: Bands such as Madness and The English Beat
Some stations with an "all-'80s" format have added elements of the '80s and '90s classic alternative format to their regular playlist. Cox's KHPT in Houston and WPOI in Tampa being prime examples of all-'80s stations that heavily relied on artists such as Peter Schilling, The Cranberries and New Order. KHPT actually flipped to a classic alternative format after its run as an all-'80s station. The same goes for KJAQ in Seattle, being one of the first stations in the country to try this format.
Digital cable music service Music Choice (originally DMX) provided a station labelled New Wave for several years. The station was later renamed "Retro-Active", and later Classic Alternative, all of which played seventies to eighties new wave, post-punk, synthpop, etc. After several years, the station filtered in '90s (and even sometimes post-millennium) artists.
- Bill Virgin, "Radio Beat: It sounds like '90s music could be the next big format on Seattle dials", Seattle Post Intelligencer, November 5, 2003
- Damien Cave, "Nirvana Bump Bizkit Off Dial - "Classic alternative" radio brings back the golden Nineties", Rolling Stone, January 30, 2004
- Brian Hiatt, "No 'Free Bird'! Zero Bizkit. Zero Zep. Classic alternative radio has arrived. (Thank God)", Entertainment Weekly, March 19, 2004
- Bill Virgin, "On Radio: Tiny station turns to 'classic alternative'", Seattle Post Intelligencer, September 14, 2006