Active rock is a radio format used by many commercial radio stations across the United States and Canada. Active rock stations play a balance of new hard rock songs with valued classic rock favorites, normally with an emphasis similar to Mainstream Rock and Album Oriented Rock on the hard rock end of the spectrum.
There is no concrete definition of the active rock format. Sean Ross, editor of Billboard Airplay Monitor, described active rock in the late 1990s as album-oriented rock (AOR) "with a greater emphasis on the harder end of the spectrum". Radio & Records defined the format as based on current rock hits in frequent rotation and targeted to males ages 18-34, akin to the approach of contemporary hit radio (CHR) stations.
An active rock station may include songs by classic hard rock artists whereas an alternative rock station would not; such acts include AC/DC, Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Halen. Additionally, an active rock station plays music by hard rock and heavy metal artists from the mid- and late 1990s all the way to the newest rock that is nationally heard throughout a lot of rock stations that carry the active rock format presently, particularly those artists which are often absent from alternative rock or classic rock radio playlists. These artists tend to be the main focus of the format, such as Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch, System of a Down, Disturbed, Papa Roach, Tool, Metallica, and Linkin Park. New and emerging artists have been given better exposure with this format being used, with artists like The Veer Union, Seasons After, Like a Storm, Burn Halo, Candlelight Red, and Messer. Some artists which are played by alternative stations also receive heavy airplay on active rock stations, such as Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring, Green Day, Bush, and Queens Of The Stone Age, alongside newer and recently known bands like Imagine Dragons, Twenty One Pilots, Silversun Pickups, Nothing But Thieves, Rise Against, and Biffy Clyro, but not as frequently in rotation. Alternative metal bands also enjoy airplay on active rock stations; examples of such acts include Red, Mudvayne, Killswitch Engage, Nonpoint, Drowning Pool, Nothing More, Gemini Syndrome, Periphery, Bullet For My Valentine, Fire From The Gods, Egypt Central, Skindred, Stitched Up Heart, Islander, Fair To Midland, Crossfade, Toothgrinder, Mastodon, CKY, and Trivium.
A pioneering station of this format in the late 1980s was WIYY (98Rock) in Baltimore, Maryland. Other early adopters of this format by the beginning of the 1990s include stations WIIL (95 WIIL Rock) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, KISS-FM (99.5 KISS Rocks) in San Antonio, Texas, WLZX-FM (Lazer 99.3) in Northampton, Massachusetts, WXTB (98Rock) in Tampa, Florida, KRZN (96.3 The Zone) in Billings, Montana, KILO (94.3 KILO) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, KEGL-FM (97.1 The Eagle) in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, and WJJO (Solid Rock 94.1 JJO) Madison, Wisconsin. Satellite radio channels include Sirius XM Radio's Octane, and the gold-based Ozzy's Boneyard channel, also on Sirius XM Radio. Former counterparts prior to the November 12, 2008, Sirius/XM channel merger were XM's Squizz and Sirius's BuzzSaw.
In Canada, active rock stations in Canada also include CFPL-FM in London, Ontario, CJAY-FM in Calgary, Alberta, CFBR-FM in Edmonton, Alberta, CFGP-FM in Grande Prairie, Alberta, CHTZ-FM in St. Catharines, Ontario, CJKR-FM in Winnipeg, Manitoba, CFXY-FM in Fredericton, New Brunswick and CHKS-FM in Sarnia, Ontario.
Australian radio network Triple M also uses the active rock format.
- Adult album alternative - similar to active rock with a mix of classic and new rock, but mostly avoids hard rock
- Classic rock – some tracks heard on most classic rock stations will rotate and play harder songs depending on popularity, especially tracks dating up to the 1990s
- Mainstream rock – similar to active rock, it is a mix of classic rock and new rock, though it tends to feature a higher proportion of classic rock tracks
- Modern rock – primarily focuses on new indie rock artists as well as some emo and pop punk artists, but not as frequently heard, indie alternative has become popular more than the emo/pop punk scene