Indie music is classified as indie rock that has roots dating back to the 1970s and early 1980s in both the U.K. and the U.S.
It’s often used to describe bands that are signed with independent record labels or are DIY artists, as well as punk rock labels in the 1980s. They don’t always have the same resources of a major label.
Over time, indie rock began to develop many different subgenres. Today, it consists of emo, math rock, noise pop, lo-fi, post-rock, and slowcore.
Let’s talk about what is indie music
The diverse nature of indie rock has allowed it to continue to have a following and attract all ages. Bands like The Pixies and Sonic Youth the heavier American sound, whereas C86 stood out for its unique sound.
Indie artists are also known to have a unique look. The men often style their hair to look messy and may use it to cover different parts of their face. They’re prone to wearing skinny jeans and can have prints on their clothes that are inspired by the 2000s. It’s common for the artists to wear bandanas and even bucket hats.
Other artists are characterized as hipsters and have clothes that follow popular styles of the 1990s.
The History of Indie Music
Indie rock is still one of the most popular music genres after several decades. Some of the most influential bands are considered to be under the indie umbrella. In the early years, The Smiths were considered one of the top indie bands in the U.K., and R.E.M. was a leading band in the U.S. Both bands introduced new sounds that allowed the indie genre to be birthed.
Some of the top indie bands to emerge on the indie scene in the 2000s include The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives, and The White Stripes. This is when emo began to increase in popularity as bands and musicians on low-budget labels began to rise in popularity.
Indie music was considered to be a way around the corruption of the pop charts that were edited by major labels. Many production teams would buy a lot of record labels to increase the popularity and sales of specific musicians.
In the 1980s, the cassette tape was manufactured, which allowed many rising indie bands to have a platform and easily circulate their music to the masses.
The 1990s is when indie music reached its prime and is when it had the most fans. This is when bands like Oasis and Nirvana were popular as indie music reached new heights and had commercial success. During this time, grunge started to have a moment and originated in Washington. Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were responsible for increasing the exposure of the music genre as both bands experienced success in the U.S.
During this time, Blur, Oasis, and Seude all had different music styles but became figureheads for Brit Pot, an extension of indie music. The success of these bands caused major labels to take notice of the music and the power it was starting to have on the industry. Both Blur and Oasis began to take the lead and become embroiled in a battle of the charts as they would release music on the same day. Oasis went on to achieve more commercial success. Each band represented two different sides of British culture, which included the south middle class and the working class. This scenario made for a great media story and represented a lot of what the U.K. is skilled in with their talents and achievements.
The new generation of indie artists in the early 2000s included The White Stripes, The Vines, and The Hives as they experienced breakthrough success. They were often dubbed as the saviors of rock and roll with their unique sounds that were a nod to past decades. Their successes allowed a new wave of bands to emerge and become popular. Popular bands that followed included The Arctic Monkeys, which had the fastest-selling debut album and experienced success due to how much they used social media to promote their music.
Characteristics of Indie Music
There are many distinct characteristics of indie music that make it recognizable and set it apart from other genres. Indie music consists of bands that aren’t attempting to find fame or commercial success with their talents and the music they produce. They often have dark or sensitive lyrics, discussing topics that include family issues and romance.
The music isn’t always popular or radio-friendly, allowing it to be considered as underground music. Although indie music doesn’t always have the same financial support as larger artists in the industry, they have the ability to maintain their creative freedom.
Collaborating with other indie artists is an effective way for many musicians and bands to grow and extend their reach. It’s possible to work together on different gigs, covers on social media platforms, and co-producing songs.
Take a look at this video showing the most popular indie songs:
Challenges Indie Artists Face
Distribution is one of the main challenges that come with being an indie artist because the musician isn’t signed to a major label. Major labels are known for handling distribution and making the music circulate to increase sales. This leads many artists to take advantage of distributors that can upload the music on different platforms. There are many different website that distribute music at no cost, allowing all indie artists to have the ability to attract new fans.
Licensing is necessary to get the right to protect the music and creativity of the artist. This requires understanding the composition rights and the master rights. Licensing allows artists to remain all the writes as the writer and composer of all of the songs. When it comes to publishing the music, indie artists have the option of representing their music themselves or employing a music publisher who will do all of the work and will split the royalties.
Promoting the music is also necessary to ensure the right listeners can hear the music. Some of the top ways that indie artists can increase their exposure to different audiences is through DSP promotion, radio plugging, digital press, online radio, TV promotion, Youtube promotion, and Spotify playlist promotion. Today, there are a lot more free and inexpensive resources available for promituong the music, making it easier to develop a large fanbase compared to in the past.
Indie bands are also responsible for coming up with all of the recording costs, as well as their production fees and touring advances. The bands and artists typically front the bill as they remain independent from a major record label.
The Current State of Indie Music
Although major success isn’t always guaranteed when it comes to working as an indie artist, many musicians prefer to have a smaller fanbase to ensure their creative freedom is protected. This has led to a lot more original and unique songs than what is played on the radio.
Today, some of the top indie bands and artists include Caroline Rose, Hamilton Leithauser, Cafe Racer, Pinegrove, and Tame Impala.
Warped Tour and Coachella are popular festivals where many people attend to listen to some of their favorite indie bands all in one place. This makes it possible for different artists to stay relevant and increase the exposure to their new music.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.