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Classic Rock Radio... 20 Years Later

Jacobs Media Marks Milestone

It was 20 years ago today... OK, that’s too cliché. But in fact, the Classic Rock radio format is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a powerful force on FM Radio – and beyond. In an era when radio formats come and go with regularity, Classic Rock has established itself as the most successful new format in the past two decades.

Back in 1985, the Classic Rock radio format was created by consultant Fred Jacobs. Armed with research from his days as the Director of FM Radio Research at ABC and a programming stint at WRIF in Detroit, Jacobs recognized the burgeoning power of the Baby Boomer generation, and the music that galvanized them.

Jacobs comments, "In the early ‘80s, it became apparent to me that the legendary Rock music from the ‘60s and ‘70s had unique appeal, but really wasn’t receiving much airplay. But even I have to admit I had no idea that twenty years later, Classic Rock would still be one of the leading formats and certainly one of its most profitable."

Classic Rock radio had humble beginnings. The first station, created with programmer Tom Bender, was an AM station in Dallas (KRQX). Despite its AM origins, K-Rocks made a mark in the ratings and with listeners. Later in ’85, Jacobs signed its first FM station – WMMQ - a weak-signaled FM station outside of Lansing, Michigan. The results were explosive. "We started out with a lot of things working against us, but the belief of those early broadcasters, combined with the unbelievable power of the music, led to our first successes," says Jacobs.

From those early days, the Classic Rock format expanded across the United States, starting in Kansas City, then moving on to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, and elsewhere. "It was clear we were onto something," said Jacobs. "And as time went on, we began to realize that this was more than just a radio format. We began to see Classic Rock in movies, on television, and most importantly, it became ubiquitous in advertising."

"There were two outside events that helped jump-start the format," recalls Jacobs. "The first was the invention of the compact disk. All of a sudden, Boomers were marching into record stores re-buying all of the great music they grew up with. And it sounded better than ever. The second event was the infamous ‘New Coke’ gaffe. As soon as Coca-Cola recognized they had made a major mistake, they embraced the word ‘Classic,’ endorsing the term and helping to emblazon it in popular culture."

Today, the Classic Rock format is heard on over 460 radio stations, and Jacobs Media has emerged as the premier Rock radio consulting firm in America. The company consults radio stations owned by Infinity, Entercom, Emmis, ABC, Greater Media, Saga, Journal, Cox, Citadel, and others.

If you would like to interview Fred Jacobs about the story behind the success of the Classic Rock radio format and its impact on popular culture, please contact Lisa Riker at Jacobs Media at (248) 353-9030.

copyright © 2005 Jacobs Media