What is Indie Music?

From its roots in the punk and alternative scenes of the 70s and 80s to its rise as a mainstream force in the 2000s, indie music has captivated the minds and hearts of thousands. Prepare to explore the expansive universe of this genre because even if you are not currently a fan, you might find yourself drawn into the unique spirit of indie music that exalts authenticity and creativity by the end of this article!

Discover Royalty Free Indie Music

Definition: What is Indie Music?

Short for independent music, indie music is an ever-changing and eclectic genre that encompasses a wide variety of styles characterized by a do-it-yourself ethos, alternative flair, and rebellious spirit. 


The main philosophy behind indie music is its focus on creative and artistic freedom and its independence from major and established record labels in the music industry. At its core, the idea behind the term “indie” has a fascinating history that dates back even further than the 1970s! 


“Indie” was used to describe independent film companies at first. When a new wave of British musicians banded together to challenge the mainstream music scene later in the 70s, little to no people knew that they were igniting a revolution that would change the face of music forever. These groundbreaking guitar bands released their music on vinyl and were often signed to small, independent labels. 


So, if you were an indie artist who wanted to make a name of their own by learning how to promote your music back in the day, you would look other ways rather than working with major music records companies such as EMI Records, Warner Music Group (formerly known as Warner Communications), Sony Music Entertainment (then known as CBS Record Group), and Universal Music Group (formerly known as MCA Records).

Characteristics of Indie Music

Indie music is a broad musical genre that has been driving the creative and artistic force in the music industry forward for decades - and there is no doubt that its diverse blend of genres and experimental nature makes it a unique musical expression. 


While it is difficult to categorize such a dynamic genre, there are some key musical characteristics that are often associated with indie music, including:


  • DIY ethos: When it comes to recording and producing, many indie artists embrace a do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, which marks the familiar and reassuring homemade feel of the genre. As indie music is often created solely by the artists themselves or with the help of a small team, its Lo-Fi sound is among the genre’s most highlighted characteristics.
  • Eclectic influences: Indie music blends various elements from various genres, including rock, ska, folk, punk, electronic, and more.
  • Authentic lyrical expression: For many indie artists, their music is an expression of the reality of the human experience rather than a product that appeals to mainstream culture and commercial success. That is why they often write about experiences and struggles that speak to them on a personal and emotional level.
  • Emphasis on Songwriting: Indie music places a strong emphasis on songwriting, with many artists focusing on clever lyrics, memorable melodies, and interesting chord progressions. This can be seen in the popularity of indie bands that are fronted by singer-songwriters, such as Neutral Milk Hotel or Elliott Smith.


As these unique characteristics come together to form a piece of indie music, whether that be an indie rock, dream pop, or indietronica song, their encapsulating effect evokes deep and personal feelings in the listener. 


That’s why if you are a content creator and think that indie music matches your vibe, you should not overlook the enchanting power that indie music will have on your audience. When it comes to using indie music to complement your content and draw your audience into your content, the possibilities are endless! 


Considering that the first 2-3 seconds of every short-form video (such as Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok videos) is your chance to hook your existing and potential followers, indie music can be a great choice for the opening music in your videos or podcasts.

Subgenres of Indie Music

By now, we have already covered how indie music draws inspiration from a plethora of musical genres. So, it is no wonder that there are countless subgenres that are constantly evolving, pushing the boundaries of what indie music can be. 


Here are some of the essential subgenres that have played a vital role in shaping the world of indie music as we know it today, along with some new and popular subgenres that are high on the rise:


  • Indie rock
  • Shoegaze
  • Post-punk
  • Indie pop
  • Noise pop
  • Dream pop
  • Indietronica
  • Indie folk
  • Twee Pop
  • Indie Hip-Hop
What is Indie Music?

Popular Indie Artists and Indie Bands

From the hypnotic sound of Lush and My Bloody Valentine and Bon Iver’s haunting melodies to Radiohead’s genre-defying sound, the world of indie music is overflowing with indie artists and bands that have diversely authentic creative expressions.

Indie Pop Bands and Artists

Indie pop emerged from its post-punk roots in the mid-1980s as a subgenre of indie music that draws contrasts with the slick and polished production of mainstream pop music. 


With catchy upbeat melodies and jangly guitars of 1960s pop songs and heartfelt emotional lyrics, listening to indie pop often gives the feeling of taking a nostalgic and whimsical walk down memory lane. Some of the earliest indie pop bands and artists include Belle and Sebastian, Lush, Camera Obscura, and Orange Juice. 


As we turn our lens to today’s popular indie pop artists and bands, our guess is that those who spent listening to the dream pop sounds of Lana Del Rey growing up can continue the list with us: Lorde, The xx, The 1975, Vampire Weekend, girl in red, Men I Trust, Her’s, Clairo, Lyyke Li, Beabadoobee, King Princess, Oh Wonder, and many more.

Indie Rock Bands and Artists

When it comes to indie rock, the list is overflowing with incredible bands and artists to choose from. This subgenre has been a driving force in the indie music industry for decades, and it is easy to see why: with its raw energy, unconventional sound, and unapologetic attitude, indie rock has conquered the hearts of countless fans worldwide. 


Among the earlier examples of indie rock bands and artists are The Wedding Present, Dinosaur Jr., The Smiths, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Elliot Smith, Pavement, Blur, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, The Strokes, and more.


When we are talking about today’s indie rock bands and artists, without a doubt, our older Gen-Z readers would confirm that one of the reasons why indie rock has entered into our lives so dramatically was the major influence Tumblr had on our generation in the early 2010s. 


These include Arctic Monkeys, Mac DeMarco, Tame Impala, The Neighbourhood, Young the Giant, Two Door Cinema Club, Alt-J, Cage the Elephant, Arcade Fire, Nothing But Thieves, The 1975, Bad Suns, Glass Animals, The Wombats, Foals, The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Vaccines, and so much more. 


If the first two phrases that come to your mind when you are asked to introduce yourself are “content creator” and “indie music enthusiast,” you are lucky to have landed on our article today! 


Discover our extensive royalty-free music library here at Snapmuse to find the perfect song to soundtrack your content today - and don’t forget to take a look at our list below to explore amazing sound effects that go perfectly with the musical atmosphere of the indie space. You can also check out our definitive guide if you are still not sure how you can add sound effects to a video to elevate your content.

A Brief History Of Indie Music With Examples

When indie music emerged as a rejection of mainstream rock and roll in the 1970s, the movement’s main focus was circulated around being independent of the major record labels in the music industry. Over the years, the preeminent idea behind indie music has evolved to define the characteristics of the sound of a band or artist. 


For example, if someone asks you to define how the songs of The Smiths make you feel, you can immediately associate their sound and poetic lyrics with touches of melancholy, isolation, loneliness, and urban life. Another example is Joy Division’s dark, atmospheric, and haunting sound which deals with themes of depression and personal struggles.


The music industry in the UK was a hotbed of rebellion in the 1970s, with punk rock acting as a catalyst for the indie music movement. Bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Damned, who rejected the mainstream rock establishment, were at the forefront of this revolution. 


They embraced a DIY ethos that celebrated creativity and artistic freedom, and independent record labels like Rough Trade, Stiff Records, and 2 Tone emerged to give them a platform to release their music outside of the major label system. 


In the United States, the indie music scene was also flourishing, with a kaleidoscope of genres and subcultures rising to the surface. The birth of CBGB in New York City was pivotal in the development of the punk and new wave scenes, with raw and unfiltered attitudes of bands such as Television, Blondie, and Talking Heads.


If you are thinking that the spirit of independent music was not only thriving on the East Coast, you are right! The Pacific Northwest also witnessed the emergence of a do-it-yourself punk movement which helped establish a thriving indie rock scene in the region. The Wipers and Dead Moon are among the examples who were the pioneers of this movement. 


It is not a surprise that this resulted in the creation of a vibrant and diverse underground music scene. This scene eventually initiated the birth of a genre that rejected the domination of corporate labels and big-name bands.

Pre-Indie Artists Who Influenced Indie Music Today

Even though there is no one definitive list of pre-indie artists who paved the way for indie music, some of the key figures include The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, The Beatles, and the Kinks. 


The Velvet Underground, led by Lou Reed, blended rock, folk, and experimental music. The influence of their unique voice can be heard in many indie bands like Joy Division, Sonic Youth, The Strokes, and Arcade Fire.


Nick Drake's introspective, melancholic songs and definitive guitar style also had a profound impact on the indie genre, with his music often being cited as a major influence on contemporary indie artists such as Elliot Smith, Belle and Sebastian, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, and Sufjan Stevens. 


The Kinks, led by Ray Davies, were known for their catchy, jangly guitar pop and clever lyrics, and their influence can be heard in many indie bands' pop sensibilities. These artists and others paved the way for indie music, influencing generations of musicians to come.


It is almost impossible to come across someone who disagrees with the idea that The Beatles was and still is one of the most iconic bands in the history of music. Their impact can be felt across multiple genres and generations of musicians – including indie bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Tame Impala, and Vampire Weekend.

Indie in the Late 70s & Early 80s

In the 1970s, indie music entered the music space literally like a storm. And when we say literally, we mean it, as independent music emerged as a reaction to various mainstream music genres like rock and roll, punk, and pop music. 


One of the most well-known independent bands from the late 70s is the English post-punk rock band Joy Divison. Formed in 1976, the band’s first self-released debut EP An Ideal for Living, paved the way for them to sign a contract with the independent label Factory Records. Joy Division’s haunting lyrics about the gloomy atmosphere of Manchester spoke to the sense of hopelessness and despair that many English people felt at the time. Later on, the band had a great influence on brands such as The Cure and U2.


Fasting forward to the 80s, we see an abundant list of alternative/indie rock bands that are blooming in the UK and US music space. This is because a new wave of indie music emerged in the UK in the mid-80s, which all started with the C86 cassette. C86 gave its name to the indie pop scene that followed and contributed to the enrichment of indie music overall.


Popular 80s indie bands that originated in the UK include The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine (which was leading the shoegaze music space), The Wedding Present, and Slowdive. As for indie pop and post-punk, Pixies and Hüsker Dü were the go-to bands of the fans of the indie sound in the 80s.  


Meanwhile, in the US, various college radio stations contributed to the emergence of the term “college rock” which encompassed a wide range of alternative and indie rock bands such as The Pavement, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, and R.E.M, which became a great inspiration for later alternative rock bands like Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Coldplay.

What is Indie Music?

Indie Music in the 90s

The 1990s marked a significant turn for indie music as new genres and subcultures were popping up in the music space, with the addition of the increased exposure of alternative music in popular culture. 


In the UK, the Britpop and shoegaze movements were on the rise, with bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Slowdive crafting intricate and atmospheric soundscapes. Meanwhile, Oasis, Blur, and Pulp were among the bands that embraced a more anthemic and guitar-driven sound. 


In the US, the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s brought indie music under the spotlight of popular culture as bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam ranked high on the charts. 


When talking about 90s indie artists, we can’t overlook Elliot Smith’s great influence and contribution to the world of indie music. Smith’s fingerpicking guitar style and introspective lyrics created an honest and authentic musical space and became a source of inspiration for artists like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver.


Of course, many voices were rising from the people in the indie community who were not pleased with the commercial success of a genre of music that was inherently a blend of countercultural values, a rebellious DIY attitude, and creative freedom. 


Regardless, indie music in the 1990s portrayed a diverse, experimental, and vibrant atmosphere as new genres such as emo, post-rock, and trip-hop were being added up under its roof. 


Talking about diverse genres, if you want to enhance your content with royalty-free music across all genres and moods but don’t know how to download free music or where you can find them, our high-quality music and sound effects library here at Snapmuse might just have the perfect track to elevate your videos.

Indie Music in the 2000s

When the calendars hit the 2000s, we saw that the evolutionary and vibrant energy which flowed through three long decades was determined to be thriving more than ever, if not less. 


On one side, indie rock bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes, and The Hives were reviving the spirit of garage rock with success, while on the other, the indie folk movement was being popularized by artists and bands like Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, and Iron & Wine. And who can forget the revival of the post-punk sound, which was led by bands like Interpol and The Killers?


The end of the 2000s brought the rise of social media and digital music platforms like iTunes and Spotify, making the works of independent musicians more accessible to the masses. Thanks to these improvements, the indie music scene thrived with rock bands and musicians such as Arctic Monkeys, Foals, The Maccabees, Foster the People, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, The Black Keys, Mac DeMarco, Arcade Fire, Florence and the Machine, and indie pop bands like The xx and the Beach House.


If you are an indie music fan who greatly appreciates the beauty of the genre and wants to explore high-quality royalty free music that matches your vibe and creative vision, don’t forget to browse our extensive music and sound effects library today!

What is Indie Music?

Where is Indie Music Now?

Ready to take a look at how the 2023 music forecast is going in the space of indie music? Here is a list of indie pop artists and bands which made a huge name for themselves after the late 2010s: 


  • Bastille
  • Alvvays
  • Vérité
  • Phoebe Bridgers
  • Beach Bunny
  • Girl in Red

Is Indie Music More Popular Than Ever?

With the usage of music production software becoming more and more accessible, many aspiring independent artists continue to release their music on their own and build their own audiences from scratch with the help of social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.


As the power of social media enhances the connection and support fans feel towards their favorite indie artists, independent musicians had the chance to build sustainable careers outside of the traditional music industry system by educating themselves about the types of music licenses to define how and where their music can be used, whether that be for commercial or noncommercial purposes.

YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, Facebook or Podcast
You’re ready for take off

Try for free

Insights Hub

Non-Copyrighted Music - Free Non Copyrighted Music

Non Copyrighted Music

Create vivid and captivating videos with unique non-copyrighted music! Browse our top lists to find the best music for your videos and streaming. You can find hundreds of different genres and high-quality music by top artists in our library.

Read More
How to Make Money on Twitch? Twitch Monetization Guide

How to Make Money on Twitch? Twitch Monetization Guide

You have your camera set up ready, Discord server on point, royalty-free intro music ready, streamlabs running, and most importantly you have a few ideas about the sort of streams you plan on making. Just as you are about to click “Go Live!” you find yourself wondering whether Twitch could be a sustainable source of income for you. Would you be able to go full time? How much do twitch streamers make anyways? Well worry not! We are giving you everything you need to know about how to earn money on Twitch. Alright! Let’s get to making your Twitch journey a successful one.

Read More
How to make YouTube Shorts, Complete Guide for Creators

How to make YouTube Shorts; Complete YouTube Shorts Guide for Creators

If you are a creator uploading any type of video to YouTube you must have received one of their emails prompting you to upload Shorts regularly to increase your audience. When YouTube is promising you more exposure in return for uploading Shorts you know they are not joking about short form content!

Read More
How to Find Trending Instagram Reel Songs and Audio?

Trending Reel Songs and Audio on Instagram; How to Find Them?

You’ve created the perfect reel! You know that it will go viral if you can just find the right song to match it! Now, you are asking yourself how to find trending Reels songs and trending audio on Instagram. Well don’t worry, we got you covered!

Read More
The Future of Music Production with AI: How AI Music Generators Are Changing the Game

The Future of Music Production with AI: How AI Music Generators Are Changing the Game

As the AI revolution unfolds at an unparalleled pace, the capabilities of artificial intelligence, once limited to mere analytics, are now testing the boundaries of the creative industries. AI has proven its prowess in visual design, and today it is beginning to demonstrate its ability to compose music.

Read More
How to Use AI Music Generators to Create Engaging Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Other Platforms

How to Use AI Music Generators to Create Engaging Content for TikTok, YouTube, and Other Platforms

It’s increasingly easy to find an AI music generator online yet not all generative AI music is equal. Some can generate better quality tracks, others are better at customizing tracks. This depends on the available data used to train the AI algorithm.

Read More

trusted by

Why Snapmuse? DECATHLON
Why Snapmuse? McDonald's
Why Snapmuse? Levi's
Why Snapmuse? Camper
Why Snapmuse? Kia
Why Snapmuse? CarrefourSA