Senior Editor and Researcher
According to a report by Statista, rock music is one of the most commonly enjoyed music genres across the United States, ranking only second to R&B/hip-hop with over 17 percent listenership.
Therefore, it’s no surprise a rock fan would want a convenient radio station that plays rock music around the clock.
However, finding the ideal radio station for all your alt-music needs requires a lot of time-consuming research, and that’s where this guide steps in for the rescue!
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through the top 11 alternative radio stations to enjoy rock and metal music all day long.
Let’s jump right in!
1. WXRV – The River
Available: Online or 92.5 MHz (Andover, Massachusetts)
Kicking off the list with one of the best radio stations out there when it comes to everything alternative.
WXRV, also known as The River, is a radio station based in Haverhill, Massachusetts, serving most of northeast Massachusetts and other parts of New Hampshire and Maine.
The radio station specializes in alternative music genres, including classic and alternative rock, folk, and some blues.
Despite being established as early as the 1950s, The River is one of the few stations still holding true to its independent roots. It isn’t owned by a large radio station conglomerate like Cumulus Media, Audacy, or iHeartMedia.
According to the folks behind the radio station, this allows them to play a wide range of heavily underrated music without focusing on the commercial aspects over the quality of content.
This makes it an excellent choice if you’re looking for a true alternative music station that broadcasts popular and lesser-known music artists.
2. KEXP FM
Available: Online or 90.3 MHz (Seattle, Washington)
Next, we have another great choice specializing in a curated selection of delightful alternative music.
KEXP FM is a non-commercial radio station owned by the Friends of KEXP organization and is mainly funded through community donations.
The radio station is licensed to Seattle, Washington, serving the entire Seattle metropolitan area.
The station mainly plays rock music, particularly alternative and indie rock.
However, the station also has a few weekly programs that play other music genres, ranging from EDM and world music to hip-hop and blues.
Like many alternative radio stations, KEXP FM was established by a group of students from the University of Washington in 1972 and remains a university affiliate to this day.
The station quickly gained a reputation for playing up-and-coming startup bands, especially local ones.
In fact, KEXP FM was among the first radio stations to play Nirvana’s music on the radio and is credited for popularizing the legendary alternative rock band!
3. WLUM FM
Available: Online or 102.1 MHz (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
WLUM, short for We Love You Milwaukee and also known as FM 102/1, is a commercial radio station broadcasting in the alternative rock format.
The station is based in Menomonee Falls and serves most of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The radio station is co-owned by All-Pro Broadcasting (owned by the Green Bay Packer’s Willie Davis) and Milwaukee Radio Alliance, which owns other indie and contemporary radio stations serving in the same area.
WLUM has a long-standing success, as it has been running strong since 1962.
However, it hasn’t always been fully dedicated to alternative music.
The radio station shifted between various music genres before settling on alternative rock in the early ’90s.
Available: Online only since 2017 (Providence, Rhode Island)
Next, we have another highly recommended radio station if you’re searching for an independent radio that focuses on music quality rather than mainstream media.
WBRU is a non-commercial radio station owned by Brown Broadcasting Service, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Brown University students.
Although WBRU became mainly dedicated to alternative and indie rock in 1988 (switching from modern rock), it’s one of the first amateur college radio stations ever created in the 1930s.
Currently, you can only listen to the radio station online through the official website.
However, WBRU used to have a radio frequency of 95.5 Mhz. Brown Broadcasting Service sold the FM frequency in 2017 to a Christian music radio station.
WBRU hosted several special events throughout the years where they play some of the best alternative and indie rock tracks worth a listen!
5. Alt 98-7 (KYSR)
Available: Online or 98.7 MHz (Los Angeles, California)
Although many indie and alternative music fans prefer non-commercial and independent radio stations, you shouldn’t miss out on quality music offered by some commercially owned ones.
In fact, nowadays, many conglomerates and big radio establishments give smaller radio stations more creative liberties when it comes to music played to compete with non-commercial and student-run radio stations. KYSR is a good example of these stations.
KYSR, also known as Alt 98-7, is a commercial radio station owned by iHeartMedia.
The radio station specializes in alternative rock music and serves the Greater Los Angeles area while being available online.
The radio station has switched to its current modern rock format since 1992 after dropping other genres, such as soft rock and rhythmic music.
Besides hosting some of the best tracks in the alternative music genre, Alt 98-7 also prides itself in being the flagship station that airs the morning drive program The Woody Show, featuring co-hosts Jeff Fife, Greg Gory, Renae Ravey, and Sebastian Davis.
6. FX Alternative Radio
Available: Online only
One of the most characteristic aspects of alternative radio stations is that they’re usually run by college students and funded by the listeners’ community.
For that reason, many of them are limited in reach and rely mainly on their online availability. FX Alternative Radio is a prime example of these stations.
FX Alternative Radio is a free online station that broadcasts from Phoenix, Arizona and has been around for over a decade, despite being at risk of going under many times through the years due to limited funds.
One person technically runs the radio stream but broadcasts at decent quality and plays a wide range of alternative music from various artists, ranging from AAA artists to lesser-known ones.
The radio station’s music genre range also covers indie and rock, so it’s common to stumble across some hidden gems while listening to this station!
7. KRBZ – The Buzz
Available: Online or 96.5 MHz (Kansas City, Missouri)
Another example of a good alternative radio station owned by a large company but still has the essence of a college-run radio is KRBZ.
This station, also known as The Buzz or Alt 96.5, is owned by Audacity. KRBZ is licensed to Kansas City, Missouri, and serves the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Unlike many radio stations, The Buzz is a new player in the alternative scene, having only been switched to the alt format since 2020.
However, the station is quickly gaining a remarkable following due to its wide range of alt-music tastes despite running jockless most of the time.
8. KSKI FM – Southern Idaho Alternative
Available: Online or 94.5 MHz (Sun Valley, Idaho)
KSKI FM is a commercial radio station specializing in the alternative format, despite switching formats a few times.
The radio station has been around since 1977 when it started broadcasting electric music programming, which allowed it to gain a remarkable following in the Twin Falls metropolitan area.
The station was sold multiple times and is now owned by Magic Valley Media.
Back in the day, it broadcasted at 103.7 MHz but later switched to the 94.5 frequency in 2013.
Besides playing alternative music from a wide range of artists, the radio station hosts some concerts and music events on the station, which is a great chance to try out new artists.
9. WKQX – Q101
Available: Online or 101.1 MHz (Chicago, Illinois)
WKQX is a commercial radio station that specializes in the alternative rock format.
Since the early 1980s, the radio station known as Q101 adopted a successful alternative music format and various morning radio programming.
The radio station switched formats a few times after it was purchased by Merlin Media in 2011, including a news/talk format followed by a contemporary music format.
However, the station switched to this alternative music format since the current owner (Cumulus Media) took over operations in January 2014.
10. KZCR – Real Rock Z103.3
Available: Online or 103.3 MHz (Fergus Falls, Minnesota)
KZCR, also known as Real Rock Z103.3, is a radio station serving Fergus Falls in Minnesota and is available online.
The station is currently owned by Leighton Broadcasting.
As the name suggests, the radio station is all about rock music and is known for playing a wide range of rock subgenres.
In fact, the station’s library includes new and old songs ranging from the early 1970s to today’s music.
11. KKHK – Bob FM
Available: Online or 95.5 MHz (Carmel, California)
KKHK, also known as 95.5 Bob FM, is a commercial radio station located in Carmel, California, and serves various areas in California, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Salinas.
The radio station specializes in alternative rock music, playing songs from several artists and eras, ranging from the early ’90s to the latest hits from local and AAA artists.
In the early 2000s, Bob FM was a classical music radio station known as K-Bach.
However, shortly after being sold to Stephens Media Group, the station switched to its current alternative rock format.
Thanks to the excellent selection of alt music, it managed to gain a small but devoted listener base.
There you have it!
As you can see, there are plenty of options, whether looking for a deeply independent and listener-funded station that heavily focuses on local talents or a commercial station that provides a professional approach with special local and syndicated programs to keep you engaged all day long!