To see what the current state of classic rock in the United States looks like, I monitored 25 classic rock radio stations1 operating in 30 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas for a week in June.2 The result, after some substantial data cleaning, was a list of 2,230 unique songs by 475 unique artists, with a total record of 37,665 coded song plays across the stations.
I found that classic rock is more than just music from a certain era, and that it changes depending on where you live. What plays in New York — a disproportionate amount of Billy Joel, for example — won’t necessarily fly in San Antonio, which prefers Mötley Crüe. Classic rock is heavily influenced by region, and in ways that are unexpected. For example, Los Angeles is playing Pearl Jam, a band most popular in the 1990s, five times more frequently than the rest of the country. Boston is playing the ’70s-era Allman Brothers six times more frequently.