College rock was the alternative rock music played on student-run university and college campus radio stations located in the United States and Canada in the 1980s. The stations' playlists were often created by students who avoided the mainstream rock played on commercial radio stations.[1][2]


It is not necessarily a genre term, but some common aesthetics among college rock bands do exist as it combined the experimentation of post-punk and new wave with a more melodic pop style and an underground sensibility.[1][2]

Notable examples

Artists as diverse as R.E.M., U2, the Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Camper Van Beethoven, the Smiths, XTC, the Smithereens, the Replacements, 10,000 Maniacs, and Pixies became some of the better-known examples by the close of the 1980s.[1][2][3][4]


The CMJ New Music Report, a publication that reported on the scene, created a chart which measured popularity of artists played on college radio. The journal's charts were used by Rolling Stone magazine and other media.[5] In September 1988, Billboard introduced the Modern Rock Tracks chart which monitored airplay on modern rock and college radio stations.


By the 1990s, the use of the term "college rock" for this style of music was largely replaced with the terms "alternative" and "indie rock". Many 1980s college radio music directors went on to have successful careers in the mainstream American music industry.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Allmusic: College Rock
  2. ^ a b c " College Rock - Alternative When Alternative Wasn't Commercial". 2011-02-01. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  3. ^ College Rock: 1980s Playlist - Rolling Stone
  4. ^ How NPR Killed College Rock|The New Republic
  5. ^ a b Wendy Fonarow (28 July 2011). "Ask the indie professor: why do Americans think they invented indie?". The Guardian.