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What Is Indie Music? Everything You Need To Know 2023

What Is Indie Music? Best Things to Know 2023
  • Max Kuehn

What is Indie music? Indie music is a term used to describe the musical genre that is not mainstream, meaning it’s not played on the radio or in stores. The best thing you can do right now is to keep reading this blog post for more information.

Since the explosion of larger recording companies, there has been a backlash by people who do not like the larger control they have over the music industry. These people are often called “indie” musicians, even though it is an oversimplification. Independents term is often used to describe their personality rather than their music style.

What Is Indie Music?

What Is Indie Music?

Indie genres, as it is commonly known, refer to music made by an independent band. Major record labels do not support them.

It can be confusing to use the term “indie” because it is not a genre. Indie pop, indie rock, and indie folk all fall under the umbrella of indie music, but they are musically distinct.

Artists don’t all play the same music. A single genre doesn’t help them identify themselves, so indie is not a genre. It is more like a classification that categorizes artists based on their recording approach.

Is Indie a Music Genre?

Because of its association with indie pop or indie rock, many people consider indie music to be a genre. It’s not a genre of music.

Many people refer to indie as an attitude. Artists are able to express themselves freely and create music without being restricted by a label. They can also make music videos and present their music in any way they like.

Indie can spread out to subgenres depending on the music of each artist, such as indie pop and indie rock. They’re not different from pop and regular rock music, except for the fact that they are played by independent artists.

Indie artists didn’t initially have the ambition of making it big or getting rich. They loved music and played it to satisfy their passion. Things changed over time, and indie artists gained worldwide recognition. Exemplifying these are Tame Impala and the Arctic Monkeys.

Many people feel that indie music is now the umbrella term for all non-mainstream music. Indie rock can also be considered alternative rock music.

As indie-rock becomes more popular, it is included in the alternative genre. Because indie rock music is constantly evolving, it influences mainstream success music.

What is the difference between alternative music and indie music?

Many bands that are called indies also sing alternative music. Alternative music and indie music don’t have to be tied to any major labels. Both terms are vague and have no specific rules. It begs the question: What’s the difference between these musical terms?

Some people believe that it is a result of their heritage. They are both musical concepts. However, indie music was created in the UK by British musicians, while alternative music came to prominence in the US.

These are the main differences between alternative and indie music.

What is the difference between alternative and indie music?


Indie music became all about acoustics after the 1980s post punk era. Thanks to indie bands like R.E.M and The Smiths, guitars were their main sound. The term “indie” was not used in the US back then. It was more common in the UK.

Alternative music originated in the USA’s ’80s and had a rock edge that was not present in indie music. It was all about electric guitars, rock sounds and had a harder edge to it than its counterpart.

Because both music styles have evolved, the sound differences can’t be ignored. The alternative was more rock-oriented, while indie listened to acoustic music.


Alternative music began as hard rock. It has seen many evolutions, including subgenres like funk, hip-hop, and pop. There wasn’t much variety; most bands created either rock music or guitar-based pop music.

Alternative music was primarily focused on two genres, but indie music is expanding to encompass all genres.

Indie music was more experimental and could be done by any artist. It was difficult to match the diversity of indie music, which ranged from pop to electronic to indie folk.


Some bands were able to open the doors of alternative music fame in the 1990s. Many bands like Nirvana, achieved commercial success and were placed on the top 40 charts. They also signed with major record companies.

Alternative music became more mainstream, and people began to use the term “indie” for independent artists who were not in the mainstream.

Bands that began as indies in the mid-’90s were no longer eligible to be called indies. Their commercial success and ties with major labels were against this, but they could still be considered ‘alternative’ music. The best example is R.E.M.

In the late 1990s, indie bands began to get closer to the mainstream music industry. People began to use the terms interchangeably, without realizing their differences.

Difference Between Record Labels and Indie Labels

Difference Between Record Label and Indie Label

Independent artists creating indie music are what they get themselves into. Although major record labels offer greater security and more chances, they also have their limitations.

Below is a quick comparison of major and indie record label.

Major Record Labels

Major label is a record label that has been in business for at least two decades. These labels create music through their own distribution companies and aim to make music that is commercially successful.

This is why passionate musicians prefer to create their own music without the pressure of commercial goals.

Many artists aren’t able to make the right choice. Financial backing is what most independent artists require to begin their journey.

Indie artists may never have had the chance to see the light of day if they don’t receive enough financial support. They can’t get fame if they don’t have other options.

The Universal, Sony, and The Warner Music Groups are the most well-known record labels at present.

Indie Labels

Major labels are focused on fame, money, success, and money, while independent labels only care about the music. They are unable to provide significant financial assistance and don’t offer large-scale fame opportunities.

Their sole purpose is to create music that is free from restrictions.

Independent labels offer opportunities that major labels can’t. Indie label allows artists to express themselves creatively without restrictions.

The Full History of Indie Music

Indie in the Late 70s and Early 80s

According to BBC Documentary Music for Migrants: The Story of Indie, 1977 was the year that indie music was created. Manchester’s band, The Buzzcocks, released their own EP and created the term “indie.”

Indie was becoming a term to describe post-punk band by the mid-80s. The Smiths and R.E.M were two of the key artists that defined indie music’s sound in the 1980s.

The Smiths signed to Rough Trade Records, one of the UK independent labels that are hugely influential. They ended up achieving mainstream success, even though they were not signed to a major label. This included a number-one album entitled Meat Is Murder.

Oasis and the Libertines were inspired by the Smiths. Any young guitarist, especially from the UK, can trace their influence to the Smiths. Listen to “This Charming Man” for yourself.

R.E.M. was an American rock group that was formed in 1980. They were one of the first alternative rock bands. Michael Stipe was their lead singer. He had a distinctive voice and wrote obscure riffs.

Their music genre features arpeggiated guitar riffs and melodic bass lines, as well as minimalist drumming. They influenced bands such as Nirvana and Pavement. R.E.M.’s “Man On The Moon” is worth a look.

In the 1980s, synthpop dominated the charts. Indie music rejected the mainstream song and became a popular form of jangly guitar-rock.

Independent pop and post-punk were the dominant genres. Husker Du, the Pixies, and 10,000 Maniacs were at the forefront.

Indie in the Late 70s and Early 80s

Indie Music in the Late 80s

Independent gained popularity in the 1980s. This is due to the widespread success of indie bands that emerged in the late 70s/early 80s. This is also due to the increased availability of recording equipment and improvements in consumer-priced recording gear.

In the mid-80s, independent labels began to release avant-garde independent music. Sub Pop Records and Matador Records were established in 1986.

They are still hugely influential today. Other labels such as Merge, Dischord, and Touch and Go were also founded during the decade.

Indie bands like Sonic Youth, Big Black, and Butthole Surfers popularized noise rock and shoegaze in the mid-80s. This was an aggressive and dissonant genre that arose from punk and post-punk music, as well as the DIY indie aesthetic.

Sonic Youth was born out of the New York experimental music and no-wave art scene. They are known for redefining rock guitar by using unusual tuning and prepping their guitars with tools like screwdrivers in order to create unique sounds.

The indie band influenced many major artists such as Beck, Sigur Ros, and My Bloody Valentine. They also brought heavy indie influences to their music. You can check out “Bull In The Heather.” You’ll be able to hear the influence of Beck and CAKE.

Shoegazing was a popular movement in the late 1980s that influenced the indie and dream pop sounds found on today’s most listened-to indie records.

This genre was named for the artist’s tendency to stare at the audience and use complex guitar effects rather than engaging with them.

The Cocteau Twins are pioneers of dream pop, which led to/was part of the shoegaze movement. They have a distinctive sound that resonates through today’s indie scene.

Their sound is ethereal, with the guitars being distorted and chorused out, the vocals high pitched, and the melodies drifting as if in a lazy afternoon dream.

You can listen to their song “Heaven Or Las Vegas” as well as hear how they influence artists such as Mac DeMarco.

Indie Music in the Late 80s

The Indie Renaissance Era in the ’90s

During the 1980s, indie rock music was led by R.E.M., The Pixies, The Smiths, and The Fall. Despite the huge success of indie rock music in the ’70s and ‘80s, it was not until the 1990s that the genre became mainstream and the top song.

Grunge bands like Soundgarden or Nirvana are largely to blame, though some of them became mainstream and signed with a major label.

Home recording equipment was also more affordable and available, which is part of the 1990s’ success. Digital recording systems were sold in stores, so artists didn’t have to rent studios or pay a lot of money.

Elliot Smith is one of the most well-known indie musicians who recorded in their own studios in the ’90s. Elliot Smith gained fame in Portland, Oregon, where he spent most of his adult life.

He was well-known for creating his albums and using his own equipment. Elliot was a great inspiration to many other indie artists, and self-produced music became very popular.

Independent music was a popular genre in the 1980s. However, the genre has expanded to include many other music styles and genres in the 1990s. Independently produced music was considered independent, which led to a wide variety.

Elliot Smith was an influential indie musician of the 1990s. He was a popular artist in Portland, Oregon, which has seen many indie bands succeed. His folk-rock music touched on the themes of drugs, mental illness and was inspired by Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, and others.

You can hear Drake’s beautiful dreariness on Drake’s music in indie-folk music such as Elliot Smith or in modern indie music like Bon Iver today.

Smith’s sound was influential, but so was his approach. Elliot Smith, and Either/or, was Smith’s most popular albums. Smith also played most of the instruments.

Joy Division is a deity for music lovers and die-hard indie enthusiasts. Martin Hannett, their experimental producer, was a major part of their unique indie sound. After Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980, the four-piece band split.

Gillian Gilbert joined the New Order informing that former Joy Division members Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, and Peter Hook were no longer with us.

They fused post-punk and electronic music to become the main Manchester band for independent label Factory Records. Their 1983 hit, “Blue Monday”, became the most-sold 12-inch single.

Neutral Milk Hotel is an excellent example of the indie-folk and indie rock sound that was popular in the 1990s. Listen to “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and you will hear Dylan’s influence as well as the distinctive lo-fi sound of that period.

The Indie Renaissance Era in the '90s

The 2000s – The Road to Mainstream

Indie Music in the 2000s brought about many changes music industry. The internet made it possible to promote any artist’s music in the 2000s. Music becomes more accessible and easier to create and release, so the indie music scene diversifies and grows.

Record sales declined, and indie artists had all the resources they needed, even though they didn’t have enough.

Independent music became mainstream, and some artists and bands were awarded Grammys.

Indies bands that had a clear indie influence, even though they were trying to achieve commercial success. It was easy to become an indie artist, and it became less glamorous.

Many indie music genres were popularized in this period, including indie-pop. Many people expected that indie would fall since the majority of bands were indies. However, it didn’t happen. Despite all odds, indie continued to grow and expand into new subgenres.

Even if you aren’t a huge fan of indie music, you can still admire the influence of Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys.

Alex Turner, a natural-born performer, has led them to sell 20 million records around the world and have won 42 awards including seven BRITs, a Mercury Prize, and seven BRITs.

Their debut album, Whatever People Say, That’s What I’m Not, was the best-selling album on the UK charts in 2006.The 2000s - The Road to Mainstream


Is Indie Music the Same Sound?

Independent music can be extremely diverse and cover many genres. Therefore, the sounds and styles of music are varied. Indie rock music is not the same. While bands in this genre may use the same instruments, styles can vary widely.
We only have a limited view of indie rock music, and that is based on what we’ve been exposed to. While many indie rock bands have had an influence on emerging artists, there are still many styles to the genre.

Why do they call it indie music?

This term comes from the word “independent”, which means a record label that operates independently of commercial and mainstream record companies. These independent record labels existed before the famous labels of UK post-punk music like Rough Trade or Creation.

How would you describe indie music?

Simply put, independent music is music produced by an artist or independent label without the resources of major labels. Many indie artists don’t have any involvement with labels and self-publish their music through distributors. We will be looking at this later.

What was the first indie song?

Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP is the beginning of indie music. This influential 7-track, four-track record from the Manchester pop-punk band is widely known as rock’s first independently funded and distributed disc.


Indie music has been around for a long time, and its definition is still up for debate. It can be difficult to differentiate indie labels from record labels or alternative genres of music. And the term “indie” can be used to refer to “indie rock”, which can lead to confusion.

This article covers all you need to know about the history, meaning and difference between indie and alternative genres of music. If you’re looking for more information on this topic, Fidlar hopes that this post helps clarify some things!

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