It turns out that Gen-Xers get old too. The generation that brought us the movements known as alternative and grunge is now nearing or reaching its forties, and with that, radio stations catering to this group are beginning to change their format to reach younger, more sought after audiences.
Many of the musical acts most closely associated with the 90s, like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M., are finding their catalogs shifted to adult contemporary or even oldies stations. And with this exodus, New Rock stations that have catered to this genre are shifting their formats to accommodate the children of the Gen-Xers or to reach important new audiences, such as the growing Hispanic population. The advent of the Jack format, stations with expanded playlists designed to mimic the average mp3 player catalog, have been particularly instrumental in altering the landscape for alternative stations.
Two of the most influential New Rock stations in the country have disappeared within the last few years, proving that even the most powerful stations in this format are not immune to the shifting tides. WHFS-FM in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore market switched to a Hispanic Tropical focus in 2005, and WNNX-FM in Atlanta switched to a contemporary hits station, targeting 20-somethings, at the beginning of 2008. Both of these stations had been flagships for the alternative and grunge music scenes and their dissolution represents a shift away from a format, as it is no longer on the cutting edge of the industry, and its audience has already made the shift to adult contemporary stations and even moved over to the AM side of the dial. The New Rock stations that remain have shifted their focus to newer acts that appeal to the male aspect of that same 20-something group.
The key to taking advantage of this shift is to understand the burgeoning audiences of these reformatted stations. Young people in their late teens and early twenties are increasingly becoming the target of these new rock and contemporary hits stations. And with that, the Gen-Xers will now be looking for their content in other places.