The Difference Between Alternative and Indie Music

Alternative music encompasses many distinct styles. Notable examples are grunge, post-punk and new wave.

But there are also artists that make more acoustic music that doesn’t use power chords; is there any distinction between these genres?


Alternative music encompasses many forms, spanning rock, pop and punk genres – as well as genres such as DIY (do-it-yourself) ethics. Independent labels tend to release this music. Alternative music has had an incredible effect on culture and society as it challenges status quo and encourages individuals to think differently; which explains its enduring appeal among young audiences such as Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and Ani DiFranco whose music have made such a statement through music.

Indie music can be more difficult to pin down than alternative. While not as specific, indie refers to all non-mainstream recordings not released through major record labels and is typically less produced and experimental than mainstream releases; its visibility may also be harder due to lesser promotion from these companies.

In the 1980s, several bands began creating alternative rock music that differed from that played on mainstream radio stations. This style is commonly known by its more experimental sounds and anti-mainstream themes; it emerged as a response to metal, prog, and stadium rock’s commercial success.

Indie rock, which began its life within this scene, can be identified by its more underground origins and DIY attitude, making it immensely popular with many listeners. Furthermore, indie rock’s more melodic sound often makes it more accessible than its alternative cousins.


Origins of alternative and indie music are somewhat uncertain. At first, “alternative” was used as a catch-all term to encompass any rock genre outside the mainstream – often classic rock, hard rock, heavy metal and blues as well as some new wave and punk genres that did not fall under its purview. Furthermore, this label served to identify bands not signed to major record labels like Sony, Universal or Warner.

Indie music was originally considered independent. Indie is not necessarily defined by genre but more so by production style and label – typically using clean tone electric guitars without synthesizers or power chords and having more of an acoustic sound than alternative rock.

Indie and alternative music emerged out of subcultures and underground movements that stressed DIY philosophies towards making music, from punk rock in the 1970s to alternative rock in the 80s, sparking musical rebellion against established norms.

Rebellious musical inspiration laid the groundwork for indie and alternative music as we know it today. Independent musicians were given an outlet for their creativity while joining like-minded communities that fostered creativity and support for individual expression.

Indie and alternative music styles have come to be associated with these terms, leading to some bands using this terminology as part of their marketing strategies. Unfortunately, this has caused confusion as some use “indie” to refer to any band not signed to a major record label while others see it more specifically as genre of music.


Alternative and indie music includes many subgenres, such as rock, punk, country, folk and electronic. Although some genres are more well-known than others, all share similar sounds and styles influenced by various cultures and trends; making alternative and indie music an appealing choice for both artists and listeners. Furthermore, this genre’s social and political impact makes them even more appealing choices.

Alternative rock is a genre of music created in the 1980s and influenced by underground and college rock, typically featuring gritty, raw guitar tones with overdriven electric guitar soundscapes. Over time, alternative rock has become more mainstream and commercial, becoming an influential pop culture symbol like Nirvana.

Indie music, first popular in the ’80s and identified by independent record labels, originated during that era and later came to define an entire style and sound associated with indie rock. While originally, its term meant distribution status only, soon enough the term became associated with style and sound characteristics as well. At that time, indie rock became associated with counterculture movements and anti-corporate attitudes; since then however it has also evolved to encompass pop punk and post punk styles within its ranks.

Art-indie and psychedelic indie have emerged as key subgenres within indie music. Art-indie features more experimental, eclectic songwriting and production techniques while psychedelic indie serves as an amalgam of both genres.

Alternative and indie music offers students many advantages beyond its versatility and innovation, including relaxing from academic stressors or spurring creativity by inspiring new ways of thinking and being creative.


Alternative and indie music have similar origins but there are distinct distinctions. One is that alternative refers to any non-pop or commercial genre while indie is focused more on artists’ independence from major record labels. Furthermore, these genres can often co-exist at once; often bands could be considered both alternative and indie simultaneously.

Indie artists are well known for their creative expression and experimentation. Less likely to be influenced by mainstream radio, they draw their influence from an eclectic array of musical sources including punk rock, folk music, psychedelic soundscapes and electronica – including Arctic Monkeys, Mac DeMarco, Tame Impala, The Neighbourhood Young the Giant Foals Two Door Cinema Club to name just some!

Nirvana and Pearl Jam quickly rose to fame during the early 1990s as alternative music spread worldwide. These bands became household names known for their loud-quiet dynamics, abrasive guitar riffs, surreal and dark lyrics – Nirvana’s turning point came when they signed with major label RGC Records; it marked an important turning point in alternative music history by showing that even popular acts could still belong to its movement.

Recently, the lines between alternative and indie have blurred as more bands blend elements of both genres to produce unique sounds. This can be seen particularly evident in today’s music scene where there has been an increase in indie rock bands due to rock’s decreased appeal among younger audiences.


Alternative and indie genres have changed greatly over time, being heavily influenced by various subcultures like punk rock – with its DIY attitude and rebellion-rooted sensibility – leading to an inclusive yet experimental music scene that appeals especially to young people. They love listening to different tunes while immersing themselves into an ever-growing community of like-minded individuals.

Indie rock music has quickly become the go-to form of alternative music in recent decades, especially after bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden achieved mainstream success during the 80s. Characterized by jangly guitars and lyrics that explore personal issues or politics, indie rock has also been heavily influenced by post-punk and new wave influences, lending darker, more introspective sounds to its soundscape.

In the 90s, indie rock began its transformation into more of a pop-oriented genre thanks to artists like R.E.M., The Shins, and Coldplay becoming popular with college radio listeners. Since then, indie rock has evolved into an eclectic subgenre which incorporates synth-pop, indie-disco, gothic rock – and even country and rap influences!

Today, “indie” refers to any group signed with an independent record label as opposed to one of the Big Three commercial record labels, which are often considered non-indie. Artists that sign with independent labels can freely experiment without constraints from major record labels; as time progresses and new genres emerge – indie music could continue its expansion and diversification.