Senior Editor and Researcher
Rock and roll has always had a powerful presence in the UK music landscape. As one of the most popular genres of all time, rock has paved the way for the introduction of various subgenres of audio, from indie to heavy metal and, of course, alternative rock.
Though many of the rock radio stations in the UK focus on classic and contemporary hits, there are a variety of channels that specialize in or regularly share alternative music.
You’re in the right place if you’re looking for something different to jam along to when cruising through the UK in your car or relaxing at home.
Today, we’ll share some of the best stations worth checking out if you’re a hardcore alternative rock and roll fan. Let’s dive in.
The Best Alternative Rock Radio Stations in the UK
While pop music might be the preferred genre for most radio lovers, rock has earned significant attention in recent years.
According to one study, around 37 percent of British listeners rank rock, classic, and metal as their favorite music genres. Another 22 percent say they prefer indie and alternative music over all other styles.
Alternative rock, a music category that emerged from the independent music underground of the ’70s, rose to fame in the ’90s thanks to industry-defining artists like Nirvana, the White Stripes, and Radiohead.
Here are some top stations you can check out if you love rock radio with an alternative vibe.
BBC Radio 6 Music
Considered Britain’s national alternative music station, BBC Radio 6 is a digital channel operated and owned by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
It aired its first program in 2002 and made history as the first new station to be launched by the BBC in over 32 years.
Although it’s only available via digital media, such as DAB and online streaming apps, BBC Radio 6 Music is a popular choice among today’s music fans, with a weekly audience of around 2.5 million listeners.
The channel primarily focuses on alternative and indie music, with various playlists dedicated to unique world music and jazz sounds.
Not only is BBC Radio 6 home to some great music selections, but it also boasts a range of fantastic presenters, such as Bob Harris, Phil Jupitus, and Andrew Collins.
Year after year, this station has gained popularity, largely thanks to its annual music festival.
Frequency: DAB: 12B
Website: BBC 6 Music
Another popular choice among alternative rock lovers, Radio X, is a commercial station owned by the Global brand.
The playlists on the channel generally include a large amount of alternative and indie rock. However, there are many programs on the channel worth tuning into.
The station has even showcased several of the world’s biggest personalities and celebrities, from Russel Brand to Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, and Simon Pegg.
Interestingly, this station started as a pirate radio channel named Q102. It was renamed XFM in 1992 and finally took on the title of Radio X in 2015.
Radio X has earned excellent listener numbers over the years thanks to its phenomenal celebrity-driven shows and a wide range of artists. As of 2022, it broadcasts to around 1.9 million people every week.
Frequency: FM: 97.7 (Manchester), 104.9 (London)
Website: Radio X
Easily one of the better-known rock radio stations in the UK, Kerrang! Radio is a digital music station owned by the Bauer company. It also broadcasts as part of the wider Kiss radio network.
As of 2022, the channel had a weekly audience of around 327,000 listeners.
Kerrang! was initially launched as a digital station on Freeview before expanding across numerous DAB channels and online.
The station had an FM frequency for a short time, but this was eventually shut down in 2013 as the company focused on its digital presence.
Kerrang! is best known for playing a wide selection of songs from all genres of the rock and roll landscape.
The channel also has its own breakfast show and various unique programs broadcast throughout different days of the week.
Frequency: DAB: 11B
Website: Kerrang! Radio
While Absolute Radio isn’t an exclusively rock-focused channel, it shares many types of music from various genres, including the alternative rock landscape.
Absolute Radio broadcasts nationally throughout the UK, using DAB signals, using the 1215 KHz frequency for a while.
While Absolute Radio follows a modern AC format, most of its playlists include a lot of rock and indie music from artists like the White Stripes, Muse, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Most of the artists featured on the channel are British in origin.
In 2022, Absolute Radio also created its own premium service where online consumers can listen to various stations without ad breaks and even access skipping features.
The service also offers access to five exclusive stations with different music genres.
Frequency: DAB: 11D/12A
Website: Absolute Radio
XS Manchester might be the ideal solution if you’re looking for a regional radio station dedicated to alternative rock.
The channel serves the Greater Manchester area and broadcasts a mixture of indie and alternative music, speech, and regular news.
Despite its local focus, XS Manchester broadcasts to a massive audience of around 104,000 listeners per week. It first launched in 2008 and has been experimenting with different kinds of output ever since.
Alongside vast playlists of indie and alternative music, listeners can expect to hear fantastic talk shows from well-known presenters, such as Gareth Brooks.
Plus, XS Manchester has dedicated playlists specifically committed to streaming nonstop music for hours at a time, with no adverts or interruptions.
Frequency: FM: 1096.1 MHz
Website: XS Manchester
Initially launching on DAB channels, Amazing Radio is an internet radio station in the UK that plays music from various genres. Playlists include sessions dedicated to hip-hop, electronica, rock, indie, and pop.
The station dissolved its DAB presence in 2012 to become an internet-only radio station. However, it did return briefly to DAB channels in London and Dublin.
Part of what makes this station so impressive is its commitment to showcasing new and upcoming artists.
Since their earliest recordings, well-known names like Bastille and Chvrches have been featured regularly on the channel. The station also shares a weekly chart listing on Sunday afternoons.
Frequency: Online only
Website: Amazing Radio
BBC Radio 1
Unlike BBC Radio 6 Music, BBC Radio 1 is a far more versatile channel in the UK landscape. Owned and operated by the BBC, it shares popular music, and current chart hits throughout the day.
However, the station has dedicated programs for alternative genres at night, including indie and rock music.
Radio 1 is available virtually everywhere in the UK, through FM and DAB channels and online. It’s also one of the biggest stations in the country, with 7.7 million weekly listeners.
Alongside music sessions, Radio 1 is also home to a range of programs and talk shows, sure to keep listeners entertained for hours at a time.
Radio 1 has hosted some of the biggest celebrities in the radio landscape over the years, including John Peel, Terry Wogan, and Kenny Everett.
Frequency: FM: 97.1-99.7 MHz
Website: BBC Radio 1
Owned by the Bauer company, Planet Rock is another digital radio station in the UK focused primarily on classic rock music.
Although the station usually shares classic rock hits, plenty of playlists feature newer hits and alternative music.
Part of the Kiss network, Planet Rock boasts an average weekly audience of around 1.2 million listeners. It has been growing consistently since its launch in 1999. The station started life as the only classic rock station available in the UK then.
Notable presenters to appear on the channel have included Alice Cooper, with his syndicated radio show, Def Leppard singer Joe Elliot, and Thunder Singer Danny Bowes.
Frequency: DAB: 11A
Website: Planet Rock
One of the few nonprofit community stations on this list, Resonance FM is managed by the London Musician’s Collective.
The station is best known for broadcasting a variety of music styles, as each volunteer presenter is given complete control over their playlists.
The station generally presents much material from the staff at the experimental music magazine, The Wire. Over the years, the channel has earned much attention from music lovers and was nominated for a Community Award by Sony.
It has also won the Radio Academy Nations and Regions Award for London 3 years in a row.
This is a station worth checking out if you’re looking for a way to discover new artists and explore different styles of music in London.
Frequency: FM: 104.4 MHz
Website: Resonance FM
Best known for producing the popular music magazine NME, NME Radio is a digital station broadcasting an alternative music format.
The station first launched in 2008 and ceased operations in 2013 before emerging again in 2018.
NME now offers two distinct radio stations, NME 1 and NME 2, focusing on 24-hour programming for around-the-clock entertainment.
Under the management of DX Media, NME Radio offers a ton of fantastic content to listen to, including alternative music playlists and programs hosted by various presenters.
NME 1 best suits those searching for indie and alternative music tracks from the past and present, while NME 2 focuses on more new and experimental material.
Frequency: DAB: 9A
Finally, Phonic FM is a popular non-commercial station in Exeter, Devon. The station was established in 2008 and began broadcasting as Vibraphonic FM before simplifying its name.
Initially, the station used a restricted service license, which meant it could only broadcast for a month each year during the Vibraphonic Music Festival.
Eventually, Phonic FM earned its full-time broadcasting license and produced various shows, including Planet Fear and the Revolutionary Radio Request Show.
While the content on the channel isn’t strictly alt-rock, listeners can find a range of music genres here.
The station promises variety above all else and occasionally produces and shares live sessions from local musicians.
Frequency: 106.8 FM
Website: Phonic FM
The UK’s Best Alternative Rock Radio Stations
With various options, including digital radio channels, online streaming services, and classic FM stations, alternative rock lovers have plenty of variety in the UK market.
There are many fantastic channels worth checking out if you’re searching for new artists or want to hear some of your favorite tunes from world-leading bands.
Good luck finding the best station to rock out to!