Where Did Indie Music Originate From?

The origin of indie music, in its original definition, lies in the breakaway from the big four record labels, which continue to dominate and shape the music industry with their profit-focused agendas. Today, indie confusingly masquerades as a genre, but if it wasn’t for artists refusing to sell their souls and dilute their creative autonomy as they dodged the bullets of contracts with the big four, indie music as we know it wouldn’t exist.

From the 50s to the 80s, EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group became an impenetrable oligopoly, which left very little room for the independent labels to manoeuvre. The strong infrastructure of major labels couldn’t be rivalled by independent labels doing it for the love of the music. If a successful independent label did emerge, it wouldn’t be too long until it had the lifeblood sucked out of it by a major label. To leave a permanent stain on music culture, they also manipulated the balance between creativity and profit, forever skewing the idea of what constitutes a successful artist.

Where Did Indie Music Originate?

Indie music originated when unified resistance to popular mainstream culture started to manifest in the music industry. As a result, in the 70s, indie music became synonymous with alternative music, especially as the uprising of indie most prominently happened around the emergence of punk, post-punk and grunge. However, technically, the origin of indie goes as far back as the 50s; when Sun Records and Motown Records first appeared as a courtesy of Sam Phillips and Berry Gordy, respectively.

Factory Records, Mute, Fiction and Rough Trade emerged in 1978, and each sent a ripple of originality through the music industry. Between them, they brought some of the biggest indie bands to glory. Joy Division, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, New Order, Happy Mondays, Erasure, The Strokes and The Fall all have something to owe to the iconic indie record labels. The indie labels proved that not every fan wanted to buy what the commercial music peddlers were selling.

The records produced by John Leckie, John Loder and Steve Albini remained a signifier of the indie music movement, which revolved around a rebellious yet cool demeanour, guitar-led music, and an iconic look that new artists will probably never stop emulating.

It took a little longer for the indie fever to arrive in America. It wasn’t until Sub Pop was formed in 1986 and signed Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden and Nirvana that independent artists and labels started to leave big record labels shaking in their exploitative boots. While some of the original indie bands moved on to sign with major labels after proving their experimentalism was profitable and could be used as a currency, the independent movement was here to stay. The light of indie music was dimmed at the same time as the demise of Kurt Cobain, but in 2022, independent music has seen its fourth year of growth.

Independent labels, such as PIAS, Dirty Hit and Partisan now account for a 26.9% share of the music industry. Other good news in the indie industry includes the increase in album sales and independent albums in the charts.

Indie music blogs UK, Indie playlisters, indie magazines, indie radio stations and indie promoters are more accessible than ever to independent artists looking for a boost at the outset of their career. So, while no indie act has become quite as big as the Arctic Monkeys in recent years, the indie scene is still thriving. It’s all relative!

You Might Also Like

No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.