Mainstream rock stations are between classic rock and active rock on the programming spectrum, in that they play more classic rock songs focusing in on the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s than active rock stations. They program a balanced airplay of recent tracks found on active rock playlists, but also more songs closely related to classic rock stations.
Mainstream rock is a successor to the widespread album-oriented rock (AOR) format created in the 1970s. However, mainstream rock can be used as a modern lean of classic rock if the playlist has to cut back some active rock artists and songs due to ratings and popularity issues. To this day there are a select few that adapt more newer songs while keeping the classics involved, while some may consist of playing all 30 years worth of classics others might adopt the 1960s and make it blended in.
As of 2013, some examples of mainstream rock stations in terrestrial radio include: KSHE/St. Louis, MO, KCLB/Palm Springs, CA, KEGL/Dallas, TX, KRXQ/Sacramento, CA, KISS/San Antonio, TX, KDKB/Phoenix, AZ, KBER/Salt Lake City, UT, WDVE/Pittsburgh, PA, WHQG/Milwaukee, WI, WFYV-FM/Jacksonville, FL, CJAY/Calgary, Alberta, KZRR/Albuquerque, NM, KEZO/Omaha, NE, WHJY/Providence, RI, KICT/Wichita, KS, KAZR/Des Moines, IA, KMOD/ Tulsa, OK, KTUX/Shreveport, LA, KZEL/Eugene, OR, WIYY/Baltimore, MD, WNCD in Youngstown, OH, and CHOM-FM/Montreal, QC. Most have a very long heritage that dates back to the 1970s as AOR stations, which is why several trades like Billboard and R&R will refer these stations as "Heritage Rock".
Outside of the United States and Canada, mainstream rock refers generally to rock music deemed 'radio friendly'. It very rarely is referred to as a specific radio format.
- Active rock - like mainstream rock, but plays a very popular demand of new and recent Hard Rock and Heavy Metal artists but can also adopt some Alternative Rock songs as well
- Classic rock - contributes to classic songs from the age of rock that started
- Alternative rock - contributes to new alternative rock format, but primarily based on Indie, Emo-Alternative, Post-Hardcore/Screamo and punk