Musings: Indie Music. Genre? Hmm…

This is the start of the new segment of Highly Evolved called “Musings”, a series of posts dedicated to our opinions on music and such. Hopefully people like it.

Indie is short for independent. Easy, huh? But wait. What’s Indie-Rock? There in lies the problem. The label “indie” in music has been used to describe independent bands (ie. Modest Mouse, The Smiths) in the past, but now it seems to be the substitute “it” word for alternative. Why is this? First you have to look at the late 90’s…


Modest Mouse circa late 90's

Indie was used similar to how people use the  term for films, which is how it should be, but over time it started to get used as a genre, I’m guessing because of the similarities in style between the “indie” bands at the time. Then “indie” bands like Modest Mouse and Radiohead, signed deals with major record labels, for some reason people kept calling them indie. You can hardly expect people to stop calling Modest Mouse “indie” as they are one of the most iconic “indie” bands.In the early 00’s “indie” started to become the “it” word and indie-genres started to get used more. The problem is that bands that  sign to major labels do not lose the indie term.

Before I start publishing my opinions, the first thing I’ll say is this; I use indie as a genre, as much as I hate using the word, I find it necessary to label bands and the term or genre indie provides me with that. Now, there’s something funny about branding any alternative band with the label “indie”, it just doesn’t make sense, what you need to do is reintroduce the term in music, “Alternative” and everything would be solved.

Artic Monkeys' Alex Turner

Artic Monkeys' Alex Turner

Let’s have a look at the power of the internet and it’s role in the term “indie”. As we all know the internet has broken a lot of new bands into the mainstream via the use of sites such as MySpace, Arctic Monkeys is a great example of this, Lily Allen is another. What they have in common is they have become big assets to major record labels, yet they still wear the term “indie” on their sleeves. At the beginning of their careers they would be what “indie” should be, but because of the buzz on the internet, major record labels signed them far quicker than what they usually would, this was probably the start of “indie” as a genre. No-one likes the label “MySpace Band” and obviously indie is the way to shake off the label.

So is it bands and their management that create this term “indie”? As much as I would like to be the conspiracy type, I’m not really and as much as the bands may promote the tag indie, in the end it is people that really get the term off the ground. Look at the site, it allows you to tag bands with genres, indie is one of, if not the most used tag on the site with more than 150,000 people using the tag a total of 1,174,019 times (as of April 2009), this isn’t as big (still close) as the tag alternative, but alternative has been tagged mostly toward 90’s bands, unlike indie which has been almost straight toward 00’s bands.

But there’s something wrong with the label alternative, why would people even use “indie” then? Well I think it seems to have something to do with “alternative” becoming out of date as the 90’s came to an end. It seems that genres are pushed into the limelight every decade and for some unknown reason, maybe the power of the internet, “indie” has become one of those “genres”.

As we reach the end of the “naughties” (2000’s), the decade will be summed up in a particular genre, as has happened with every decade proceeding this one and while I’m not sure whether the decade will be known for the rich vein of alternative bands lazily labeled “indie”, the term is surely coming to an end.


~ by Michael Hodder on April 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “Musings: Indie Music. Genre? Hmm…”

  1. Great article, love it.

    It’s classic, looking through the shelves of JB-HI-FI – alternative and indie are usually right next to each other…


  2. […] of how deeply the music industry is ingrained in a system of marketable genres. As the blog, Highly Evolved, points out, ‘Indie’ has become as blanket a term as ‘alternative’: covering so wide a […]

  3. I actually agree with you. When I first got into “indie” music I considered it alternative, due to the fact that that was what itunes called them. Great article, it was superbly written.


  4. I was trying to explain what indie music was to my mom just the other day- I ended up with 3 different types.
    1. Not signed onto a record label
    2. Signed onto an independent record label
    3. A band that doesn’t sound like the “norm”, or who can’t be classified under another umbrella genre

    These are such wide parameters though, cause being indie is considered “in” nowadays, so bands are reluctant to be considered a “mainstream” band. I could babble on for days, but I’d rather just listen to the music and not care.

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