When did Mötley Crüe become classic rock? Sometime around the time when radio stations started using data to craft their playlists, according to a FiveThirtyEight post.
These days, Mötley Crüe, Led Zeppelin and Ozzy Osborne are considered classic rock. But they weren’t always. And, as any Gen Xer (or Millennial) who’s heard Pearl Jam or Green Day on their local classic rock station can tell you, there comes a time when they ask, “When did ‘Longview’ become ‘classic?'”
According to FiveThirtyEight, radio stations these days use a lot of data mining to figure out what their listeners like, and then they cater to that when they make playlists.
“The standard in the industry these days is an online music test or an auditorium music test where you just gather a sample and have them rate songs based on the hooks — the most familiar parts of the song — and you just get back a whole slew of data,” Clear Channel classic rock brand manager Eric Wellman said in the blog post. He added that the year a song was released has nothing to do with it becoming a “classic rock” song. Instead, the classic rock genre’s ability to grow based on listener reviews and data is what makes the genre last so long.
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As a result, companies like Clear Channel ask fans of classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin what else they listen to, add songs to the playlist based off of that, and then cater to different geographic regions based on taste. For instance, in FiveThirtyEight’s data set, Bad Company and Heart songs are played more in San Antonio and Houston, respectively, than anywhere else in the country.
Mötley Crüe is also played 4.3 times as much in San Antonio compared to average.
Other areas in the South tend to listen to “harder” classic rock, like Metallica and KISS. This, Wellman told FiveThirtyEight, is because of immigration.
“The Hispanic influx across the southern United States vastly changes the rock landscape,” he told FiveThirtyEight. “The common conventional wisdom is that Hispanics who listen to English-language rock like a significantly harder brand of English-language rock. In markets where that is an influence, you’ll see that.”
As Gen Xers and Baby Boomers grow older and Millennials begin to take up more of the advertising market share, however, the classic rock genre might skew younger based on what younger listeners add. So, we’re probably going to start hearing a lot more Green Day, My Chemical Romance, blink-182, The Strokes and other 1990s-2000s rock bands hit their “classic” phase soon.
Check out the full article and all of its methodology here.