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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, Blondie and Talking Heads.
- Power pop: Bands such as The Knack and The Romantics are often included in this category.
- College rock: The major building block of American alternative rock, and thus artists in that genre are played often. The early works of R.E.M. (in particular), The Replacements and They Might Be Giants usually show up on classic alternative stations.
- Post-punk and British alternative/indie rock: Common on many classic alternative stations, and often added for variety. Artists include New Order, The Smiths and U2.
- Gothic rock and dark wave: Bands such as The Cure, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and Killing Joke.
- 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, Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys 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.
- Dream pop and shoegaze: Bands such as Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Uncommon, and depends on the amount of post-punk played on the station.
- New Romantic: Bands such as Spandau Ballet and Adam and the Ants.
- Ska revival: Bands such as Madness and The English Beat.
- Indie pop and modern indie rock: Artists include Aztec Camera and Orange Juice.
- Punk: Artist include Ramones and The Clash.
Some stations with an "all-'80s" format have added elements of the 1980s and '90s classic alternative format to their regular playlist. Cox's KHPT in Houston and WPOI in Tampa are prime examples of all-'80s stations that heavily relied on artists such as Peter Schilling, The Cranberries and New Order. KHPT flipped to a classic alternative format after its run as an all-'80s station. The same goes for KJAQ in Seattle, 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 1990s (and even sometimes post-millennium) artists. However, an artist like David Bowie can often fit in classic alternative because he meets the criteria.
- 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