Discussions

As I was doing my homework for writing a preview of NXNE, I noticed that several of the artists on the schedule were classified by genre as "Indie" or "Indie Rock". I've seen the question raised in other places--is "Indie" really a genre? What does it mean? And if it isn't a genre, and refers only to record label status...what does it mean? It's become kind of an ambiguous term. What do you think of when you hear the term "Indie?"

Conversations

    So...those answers are kind of all over the board, but it sounds like everyone who has commented has the same general idea. Let me ask you this, then: How would you define the term "alternative"? As in "alt-folk", "alt-rock", or "alt-country". I kind of feel like the terms "indie" and "alt" are being used to blur the lines between genres, where the crossover characteristics are nebulous and hard to define.

    Also this, which I stole from @Raf's Facebook.

    lol

    So do you guys think that macklemore is indie ? He isn't part of a record label but his song thrift shop topped the billboards.

    Indie is a very concise technical term in the industry. It means: not funded by RIAA member companies.

    Even the sound of "Indie" genres are really just generalizations of styles that have not yet been popularly adopted by the RIAA, and marketed to the point that "Indie" drops off the genre name.

    Its gotten more confusing over time but I've always taken it to mean an artist who isn't affiliated with a major label (not necessarily completely unsigned). Bright Eyes for instance has been signed as long as he's/they've made music, but it was to a label founded by Conor's brother. For a while it seemed to hint a certain style of music as well, but I don't think that's true anymore (if it ever really was). You do see people say "indie rock" or "indie folk", but I don't think the indie part makes for a whole separate genre, just a way to describe the music that gives it more context than just "rock" or "folk" would. "Indie" as a genre to me has generally implied some form of indie rock, but that's likely just because that was the scene I was in, not that it was actually what "indie" music was.

    Even ignoring using it as a genre, the unsigned/non-major label distinction has gotten harder to track over the years since a lot of "indie labels" have been caught up in the machine and turned into subsidiaries of the majors, and distribution is generally still handled by majors regardless. If you're signed to an indie label, and that label gets bought by a major, are you still an indie artist if there's no change in your music? Is the past work called indie, but future work called something else? Indie is probably one of the most subjective terms that gets used regularly, to the point where its almost meaningless on its own.

    This question makes me want to find an ontology of music genres. There's so many random sub genres, it would be amazing to see it all visualized.

    Hmmmm - I think it might be zeitgeist kind of thing. Not quite a defined and specific sound (like jazz is) nor a pure reflection of the business side of things. To me it means: lighter, pop/electro-infused rock. And I think it applies more to "rock" than anything else. You never hear "indie hip hop," or "indie punk" (at least, I don't).

    I guess "pop" suffers from a similar issue: it's generally shorthand for "popular," which of course changes on fairly regular basis. So "Indie" as "Independent" right now may be a reflection of the Millennial and Gen-Y age groups who see value in breaking away from some of the more stoic regimes of the generations-past, encompassing a wide spread of music created by those who embrace the same values. I'm trying to think of a historical equivalent... any thoughts?

    I see indie as more of a record label status nowadays. Before, such as 5-10 years ago, I would say indie would be cross of rock and pop. What I mean by this is that the songs I would label it as would be songs with a mix of rock elements and a mix of pop sounds. However, now I see indie as a record label status because I feel like with attaching indie to your music, you're letting the fans know that the content and direction of your music is not controlled by labels. The music the artist is creating is sounds that truly believe is new and unique. Indie to me a label that I truly believe is the new phase for music.

    I would definitely say for those that grew up through the original meaning of the term indie, they can still make sense of it. Now, the term still has meaning to me, but it's just a huge umbrella term like EDM. It encompasses such a massive spectrum of genres of music that it doesn't really define anything at all. But to me, indie usually means that there will most likely be either a lo-fi factor, some synthesizers, a certain style of 'non-rockstar' vocals (people with not the most amazing voices), and it may be poppy but in a 'non-mainstream' sounding way. (good and catchy but not good enough to appeal to a huge audience)

    I love and hate this question! :) When I was growing up I disliked "indie" bands. I thought they were lame and their music did nothing for me. I thought of it as "soft rock" and more chill type music. In actuality, I never really gave it a chance. Nowadays, indie is my favorite genre. I see it as an umbrella term because within indie there are multiple other genres like pop, alt-rock, folk, anyone really who is trying to "make it". I still do find it confusing though. I agree with the comment about it being ambiguous. It pretty much seems like indie can be whatever it wants to be.

    I just think 'Indie' means not on a Top 40 radio station, in terms of where people are listening to it. It definitely doesn't only mean on an independent record label, or just unsigned artists, but I think it's a way of broadly categorizing a certain sound, but it also relates to fashion/style that is popular now. Basically, 'Indie' is just the sound of music that is popular right now and it can be applied to a wide variety of genres.