ITT We Figure Out the Mainstream Rock Format

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Stemming from here, I feel a new thread may be warranted for this airplay chart: songs that weren't a bands biggest hit, but have gone on to be their legacy song and biggest iTunes seller

I honestly am not sure who this format is for anymore and am somewhat curious. I could imagine in an abstract sense that it is meant for white working-class to middle class men from 25-45 but I know a reasonable number of people who fit this description and don't think they listen to most of this stuff; I'm not sure I come across most of these songs in the wild - classic rock and 90s alternative rock, yes. I spend a lot of time around both experienced and aspiring guitarists, a large number of whom love rock music, and I never come across anyone raving about Five Finger Death Punch or Godsmack. (I know a lot of people who would love a couple of the artists that make this chart but not most of it.) Is this stuff played at sporting events?

For reference, top songs on this format from 2020: https://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/2020/mainstream-rock-songs-artists
Current chart (USA): http://charts.bdsradio.com/bdsradiocharts/charts.aspx?formatid=54
Current chart (Canada): http://charts.bdsradio.com/bdsradiocharts/chartsbds.aspx?formatid=caar
Number ones of the 2010s: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Mainstream_Rock_number-one_songs_of_the_2010s

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 20:53 (one month ago) link

For comparison, this was the year-end chart for 1990 (when I was 11 and an avid 'mainstream rock' radio listener): https://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/1990/mainstream-rock-songs-artists

I feel like a lot more of these songs would have been widely known and heard and would have little trouble identifying people who listened to them.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 20:54 (one month ago) link

There's way more stuff stuff that crossed over to Pop/WAS Pop on the '90 list (Henley, Collins, Aerosmith, "Black Velvet").

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:13 (one month ago) link

Of course, if there was only one track that on the '90 list, it would still outpace the last several years of charts.

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:16 (one month ago) link

"Track Like That"

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:16 (one month ago) link

Not to be Capt. Obvious, but Wikipedia has a pretty detailed description of the format…

juristic person (morrisp), Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:18 (one month ago) link

massive "original research"/"citation needed" situation there. but i think the "who listens to this format, who is following these artists" inquiry remains open.

I Am Fribbulus (Xax) (Doctor Casino), Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:37 (one month ago) link

A New Zealand mainstream rock station, The Rock, had a 2000 countdown over the weekend - I only know about it because a Facebook friend was posting the results.

It's an oddball top 50 from the outside - https://www.therock.net.nz/home/music/the-rock-2000.html - like the station has built its own ecosystem.

A high contingent of NZ and Australian stuff, some classic rock (including Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man at #3) but mostly post-1990.

aphoristical, Sunday, 26 September 2021 21:45 (one month ago) link

it's just hard rock fans, they're still around & some are interested in keeping up with new music in the genre, even if they all tend to prefer the classics (though often just means grunge these days). the 'mainstream rock' format apparently mostly focuses on legacy material while the 'active rock' format tends towards newer music & they both contribute to those charts. there's a lot of post-grunge in those charts there too, there's still an audience for that stuff even if it's not as prominent as it was 15 years ago.

ufo, Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:28 (one month ago) link

From the Wikipedia link above: "Mainstream rock stations represent the middle ground between classic rock and active rock on the programming spectrum."

"Active rock"? Now that's a genre I want to learn about. I assume it has something to do with Richard Simmons.

clemenza, Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:28 (one month ago) link

I'm also taking out copyright on Dormant Rock, and hereby appointing Pearl Jam as the genre's blueprint and inspiration.

clemenza, Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:34 (one month ago) link

As per p. 41 of the 2009-06-20 issue of Billboard here, the Mainstream Rock chart combines the heritage rock (the format described in that Wiki article) and active rock formats: https://books.google.ca/books?id=wBeEDJhw110C&printsec=frontcover&hl=fr#v=onepage&q&f=false

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:39 (one month ago) link

What about Inert Rock?

I, the Jukebox Jury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:40 (one month ago) link

Active rock is m/l what they used to call hard rock aiui. Interestingly, from what I gather, Toronto and Vancouver don't have active rock stations so the Canadian charts are based mostly on medium-sized and smaller markets. This is the local station: https://www.rebel1017.com

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:41 (one month ago) link

p

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:41 (one month ago) link

Uh xp

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:41 (one month ago) link

Five of my FB friends 'like' that station but I'm pretty sure four would be casual listeners at most and would be more passionate about something like Opeth or Leprous or shred videos than most of those #1s.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 22:57 (one month ago) link

Yeah i haven’t heard many of these songs. I was flipping through the dial and found a rock station playing a song by Eddie Van Halen’s son’s band followed by Linkin Park. So i imagine thats the kind of place where these songs get played.

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:23 (one month ago) link

I’m.

brimstead, Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:25 (one month ago) link

lol whoops meant to just post I’m confused as to what the criteria for billboard charts are in this age, I’m guessing radio is not a factor.. maybe the word format is tripping me up. Is radio still a factor in promulgating band buzz?

brimstead, Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:29 (one month ago) link

This is a radio airplay chart.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:33 (one month ago) link

THE BLACK KEYS
HOWLIN' FOR YOU
6 minutes ago

Nope

billstevejim, Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:37 (one month ago) link

https://wmmr.com/stream/WMMRFM/

Think this is the station. It’s a mix of 80scrock, grunge and 90s alt, nu metal, with the occasional Five Finger Death Punch and GVF track.

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:39 (one month ago) link

Misread that as GBV.

I, the Jukebox Jury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:40 (one month ago) link

Greta B. Fleet

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 26 September 2021 23:41 (one month ago) link

I used to work in radio promotions.

There was a time you had Rock Radio and that was fine but then in the '90s suddenly rock was being spun in several different directions.

Classic Rock would only play the rockin' hits of the past and would once in a blue moon add a new song by a heritage artist but generally would rather play two dozen Zeppelin songs than anything else. As time has gone on classic rock stations have opened up to include music through grunge and Metallica. Oddly enough the election polling folks at 538.com had a pretty interesting look at the format nowadays.

What was once rock changed into two different beasts when rock music began to start having pronounced demographic dividing lines so in the '90s you and Heritage Rock and Active Rock.

Heritage Rock (sometimes called Mainstream Rock) played more classic rock but also would play new bands that fit into the format sonically. So they would play the Black Crowes and when Tom Petty put out a new one, they would be all over it.

Active Rock was for the younger kids and was generally heavier. This is where you'll hear Avenged Sevenfold, Pretty Reckless, and Halestorm. Maybe you'll hear Ghost here as well.

Modern Rock used to be Alternative. I grew up listening to WHFS in the DC suburbs pre-Lollapalooza. Now most of the big stations are corporate owned and sound a lot more like the stations above than college radio which wasn't the case when I was a young'un.

Fun fact: Green Day gets play on all of those stations all the damn time.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Monday, 27 September 2021 00:46 (one month ago) link

The local alternative/modern rock station has a little bit of overlap with these stations (incl Green Day, yes, and Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and RHCP) but also plays a lot of comparatively softer stuff like Arcade Fire, Metric, Billie Eilish, Lumineers, Florence & the Machine, Imagine Dragons, 21 Pilots, ... In the breakup of 90s alternative, they kept Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead while the active rock station got Alice in Chains and Tool. I do know people who listen to the stuff on the 'alternative' station.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 00:58 (one month ago) link

(That list was partly based on just looking at their website (https://www.live885.com) and from catching the station once in a while.)

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 00:59 (one month ago) link

Thanks for the perspective btw.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 01:34 (one month ago) link

If Classic Rock feels like smoking dope in bedroom with black light cobra posters, and Southern Rock feels like sitting shirtless on a pontoon boat drinking Budweiser, and Grunge is opiates in a Van Hool coach, then this music feels like riding in a pickup all paranoid from the corn-syrup rush of the Big Gulp between your knees.

Citole Country (bendy), Monday, 27 September 2021 15:26 (one month ago) link

ain't nothing like the sound of a cooler slushin' in the bed of your truck

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Monday, 27 September 2021 15:32 (one month ago) link

billboard's "mainstream rock" title has been a misnomer for quite a long time as the new music played on that format is, like, not very relevant in the actual mainstream. this wasn't as true back when, like, a shinedown song could cross over or something, but those days seem to be long gone. even back in the day that the name arose "alternative" (or "modern") rock was often more commercially relevant so i think "mainstream" was partly meant to convey that the music itself sounded more like what one would conventionally expect "rock" to sound like, since quite a few hits at alternative stations were a little left-field and not always sonically comprehensible as "rock"

in any case nowadays the only songs originating at this format that sell/stream well enough to chart on the hot 100 are covers of old songs. to an even greater extent than other rock formats (like alternative) most stations seem to have assumed the programming philosophy of an adult contemporary station where the majority of their content is old/classic songs with a very small proportion of new stuff (only the new stuff appears on billboard's airplay chart). i looked at the recently-played pages of a few stations that i think are supposed to fall under this umbrella (wmmr philadelphia, kxxr minneapolis, kupd phoenix) and honestly they're not very different from the classic rock stations that have started subsuming 90s alternative into the mix, but w/, like, greta van fleet also in there

dyl, Monday, 27 September 2021 15:52 (one month ago) link

lol, bendy

He POLLS So Much About These Zings (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 27 September 2021 15:53 (one month ago) link

Only saw ufo's post now. Sorry I repeated some of what you said. And yeah, it makes sense that the people I know who 'like' this station would mostly prefer the older bands in the format. I guess it's part of what I was wondering (as someone who likes a lot of classic hard rock and grunge and still finds these charts baffling!).

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 16:34 (one month ago) link

I think the only reason these stations play new songs or new-ish bands at all is so they can continue doing concert ticket giveaways and stuff

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Monday, 27 September 2021 16:42 (one month ago) link

I guess the sort-of-interesting thing here is, and it's in Sund4r's OP, is whether there is somebody on this board or one step away from them who actively likes the new, "active" stuff.

He POLLS So Much About These Zings (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 27 September 2021 16:51 (one month ago) link

Modern Rock used to be Alternative. I grew up listening to WHFS in the DC suburbs pre-Lollapalooza

WHFS really was an alternative station once - I don't mean "alternative" as in what later came to be thought of as alt-rock, but rather real alternative, music that wouldn't be found on any Billboard chart. Freeform formats where the DJs actually picked many of the records from all sorts of uncommercial genres. Lots of local bands too. It was like that throughout the 1970s and early 80s, after which the playlists tightened up and focused on "college rock" that became "alternative" or "modern" rock by the '90s. I was always irked at million-selling records being called "alternative"; no knock against the music itself, but it's mainstream whether you like that label or not once you're on the top 20 of the Billboard modern rock chart.

Lee626, Monday, 27 September 2021 17:04 (one month ago) link

How many listeners would these stations lose if they played Opeth and Gojira, or Mastodon instead of Mammoth WVH and Pop Evil? (They don't seem that different in terms of Spotify and Youtube numbers.) Or is the new stuff meant to be as anonymous as possible so people won't turn it off in between the commercial break and the next Alice in Chains song?

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 17:50 (one month ago) link

It's funny to me how tied Shinedown are to this format:

Shinedown has the most number one singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts out of any band, with 16, and all of their released singles have reached the top 5 on the chart. Additionally, on June 3, 2021 Shinedown was ranked #1 by Billboard on the Greatest of All Time Mainstreams Rock Artists chart released to celebrate the Mainstream Rock Chart's 40th Anniversary.[1]

How does it feel to be the canonical Mainstream Rock band?

jmm, Monday, 27 September 2021 18:09 (one month ago) link

Feels good!

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Monday, 27 September 2021 18:16 (one month ago) link

Oh, listening to "Second Chance" now, their most popular song on Spotify, I've heard this song a million times before. (Of course, it's 13 years old.) I might have expected this to be too wimpy for this format.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 27 September 2021 18:23 (one month ago) link

This concept is kind of funny - a niche format that is actually less distinctive/interesting than the larger umbrella format. But then I’ve never heard Shinedown.

Josefa, Monday, 27 September 2021 18:31 (one month ago) link

I checked out their top song on Spotify-- "Cut the Cord"-- could be a theme song for Alex Jones

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Monday, 27 September 2021 18:40 (one month ago) link

This Shinedown song is generic sounding enough that I might have heard it, but I don't recognize it. I guess this is somewhat like the (mostly cancon) stuff that my local rock music station plays between classic rock songs, though maybe a bit lighter.

silverfish, Monday, 27 September 2021 19:14 (one month ago) link

and looking at that Canadian chart vs the American one linked in the first post, I recognize a surprisingly high number of bands in the Canadian one (Big Wreck, Sheepdogs, cleopatrick, Damn Truth) that are played pretty regularly by the rock station here. I assume these bands are Canadian and they are just slotting them into spots where something like Shinedown would be if this rock station were American.

silverfish, Monday, 27 September 2021 19:23 (one month ago) link

Also, aren't there Canadian content regs to consider? Are Canadians suspicious of bands that are only popular in Canada and nowhere else, figuring they're only getting airplay to meet the quota?

Lee626, Monday, 27 September 2021 19:58 (one month ago) link

one thing i have learned from this format is that odd numbers are way cooler than even

Three Doors Down
Five Finger Death Punch
Avenged Sevenfold

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Monday, 27 September 2021 20:10 (one month ago) link

Third Eye Blind
Ben Folds Five

(actually even numbers have an uneven track record, cf. 4 Non Blondes)

Extinct Namibian shrub genus: Var. (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 27 September 2021 20:28 (one month ago) link

9 Live Crew

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 27 September 2021 20:29 (one month ago) link

Sum 41? RAWK
Eve 6? LAME

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Monday, 27 September 2021 20:48 (one month ago) link

Also, aren't there Canadian content regs to consider? Are Canadians suspicious of bands that are only popular in Canada and nowhere else, figuring they're only getting airplay to meet the quota?

As opposed to the objective meritocracy of US and UK radio?

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 00:17 (four weeks ago) link

lol

He POLLS So Much About These Zings (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 12:07 (four weeks ago) link

Are Canadians suspicious of bands that are only popular in Canada and nowhere else, figuring they're only getting airplay to meet the quota?

I definitely used to think this when I was younger, but now I realize that there are going to be a lot of terrible bands getting radio airplay no matter what, so might as well help out our local shitty bands, they are no better or worse than their international equivalents.

silverfish, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 13:14 (four weeks ago) link

I wonder how much of this has to do with demographic shifts— radio still plays a HUGE part in rural areas and smaller cities, and this kind of "hard rock" stuff that dominates these charts might play okay to a certain demo; namely, teenage boys and their dads, honkies all of them.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 21:13 (four weeks ago) link

Been thinking about these sorts of questions a lot since I saw Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys a month ago— I liked the former before "Ruby Soho" and "Timebomb" came out because I'd read about them in SPIN and bought a CD with my dog-walking money, but the latter emerged in the mid-to-late 90s as a sort of rowdy punk band...but how to explain their rise to be the favorite band of vaguely white nationalist Catholic types who live in the suburbs? I've done some searching on the charts and it can't be explained there, I don't think.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 21:18 (four weeks ago) link

(Also, just FYI, I went to that show because my best friend from elementary and middle school invited me to go with him. He remains a nice guy, but man his music taste is abysmal!)

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 21:19 (four weeks ago) link

I know (used to know, more accurately) a lot of ppl my age (& even old dudes!) who think bands like Godsmack & Five Finger Death Punch are as good as any grunge-era bands, as good as bands get really...

the revenge of beer hegemony (Drugs A. Money), Friday, 1 October 2021 01:05 (three weeks ago) link

o_O

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Friday, 1 October 2021 01:10 (three weeks ago) link

Lmao

the revenge of beer hegemony (Drugs A. Money), Friday, 1 October 2021 01:11 (three weeks ago) link

They always play some cool rock on the fight scenes in Letterkenny and I always thing I need to look up who that band is and never do. I assume they are Canadian artists (I knew Peaches tune when it came up as there was plenty of ILM love for it back when it was new).

earlnash, Friday, 1 October 2021 02:21 (three weeks ago) link

From scanning some videos by FFDP, Hurricane, and Shinedown, all featured heartfelt comments by current or former members of the US military, so that also appears to be a key demographic here.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Friday, 1 October 2021 02:51 (three weeks ago) link

(Also, just FYI, I went to that show because my best friend from elementary and middle school invited me to go with him. He remains a nice guy, but man his music taste is abysmal!)

lol just listened to an episode of Cinepunx which featured a tangent of one of the hosts going to this tour, 80% complaining about how shit Dropkick Murphys and their weird fanbase are.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 1 October 2021 11:09 (three weeks ago) link

From scanning some videos by FFDP, Hurricane, and Shinedown, all featured heartfelt comments by current or former members of the US military, so that also appears to be a key demographic here.

I wrote about this phenomenon a few years ago.

but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 1 October 2021 11:33 (three weeks ago) link

good stuff, thanks

He POLLS So Much About These Zings (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 1 October 2021 14:06 (three weeks ago) link

lol just listened to an episode of Cinepunx which featured a tangent of one of the hosts going to this tour, 80% complaining about how shit Dropkick Murphys and their weird fanbase are.

― Daniel_Rf, Friday, October 1, 2021 4:09 AM (seven hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

It was confounding— there were dudes wearing NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF and Black punks with PUNKS AGAINST RACIST HATE shirts walking around, and in the meantime, the guys who parked next to me had Trump stickers and Thin Blue Line cop-humper shit all over their brand new Expedition— they were all wearing Irish and Dropkick Murphys type of gear.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Friday, 1 October 2021 18:21 (three weeks ago) link

especially since they have beat up Nazis at their shows

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Friday, 1 October 2021 18:37 (three weeks ago) link

I think it's sort of the Boondock Saints effect— there's this sort of "hatred of authority" and "adoration of authority" that seem to go hand in hand with these types of idiots.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Friday, 1 October 2021 18:45 (three weeks ago) link

I listened to the active rock station for a little bit in the car last night, out of curiosity. It's an interesting contrast to what these charts are like, since almost every song was familiar: iirc,
Foo Fighters - Making a Fire (only song from this year; I knew it but only bc I listened to it when I saw it on the chart - it sounds like it could be from the 70s)
Iron Maiden - Run to the Hills
Green Day - Longview
The Glorious Sons - Kill the Lights (only song I didn't recognize; four years old but could be 20)
My Chemical Romance - Welcome to the Black Parade
Something by the Tragically Hip

I actually don't dislike any of these and actively like a few but it was a exceptionally unchallenging, unsurprising listen; as noted above, it's basically a heavier contemporary take on classic rock in a way that doesn't come across when reading charts.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Saturday, 2 October 2021 16:00 (three weeks ago) link

Other than Iron Maiden and Green Day, you might as well have just listed

Shit Band- Stupid shit song
Bad Group- Really Dumb Bro Song
Wow our band is Bad- Fucking Abysmal Song

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Saturday, 2 October 2021 16:22 (three weeks ago) link

Wow our band is Bad don't get much love on ILM, maybe it's their name?

Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 2 October 2021 16:27 (three weeks ago) link

Clap Your Hands Wow Our Band Is Bad

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Saturday, 2 October 2021 16:59 (three weeks ago) link

I can’t believe how many albums the foo fighters have made. I would have assumed they’d have all literally died of boredom after having to record their 7th album of undifferentiated “rock music” flavored audio product

brimstead, Saturday, 2 October 2021 17:05 (three weeks ago) link

Cool article, unperson.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 3 October 2021 01:29 (three weeks ago) link

yeah, great article unperson.

I'm a sovereign jazz citizen (the table is the table), Sunday, 3 October 2021 16:48 (three weeks ago) link

The new Big Wreck single is honestly really good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZImrFEkGjGs

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Tuesday, 12 October 2021 18:08 (two weeks ago) link


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