Rather than a sound, indie comprises all independently recorded music. Its artists release music on their own record label or an independent label, meaning a record label unaffiliated with a major record label.
Indie music comprises a broad spectrum of music spanning all genres. You’ll find indie country, indie pop, indie rock. Any genre normally controlled by major labels features an indie genre. Most artists create music of this genre on a low to mid-sized budget. Its audience generally ranges from teenagers to 35 year olds.
The effects of Indie Music
The advent of the indie movement brought notoriety for some “garage bands” who became well known through live club dates, the indie press, and appearances at regional and national music festivals. This includes The Arcade Fire, Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decembrists, Modest Mouse, Mumford and Sons, Oasis, Pinback, and Radiohead.
Characteristics of Indie music
Indie bands do heavily influence one another which produces similar sounds. In general, indie music features a clear melody and simple instrumentation. The influence of folk and country music pervades and many songs feature violin or piano. The musical composition often features a four instrument main combination of lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums with harmonized vocals. Its simple arrangements make it easy to cover the songs, making it popular with young musicians.
Indie music encourages experimentation. It may draw from fields besides folk and country, as far flung as electronica, jam rock also known as psychedelia, or Japanese noise. Its guitar parts use standard and power chords which also lends its music to being easy for young players to learn.
Its simple lyrics may recount a slice of life or vignette. They often contain anti-corporate or political statements, much like folk music’s protest songs.
Although indie music develops throughout the world, it’s known for its US creative hubs in Austin, TX and Seattle, WA. In Europe, it draws from both large and small cities with the countries of England, France and Germany leading the popularization of bands on a larger scale. In Europe, folk mixes with rock and punk in the indie scene. One the best known bands to rise out of the European scene is the folk punk band The Pogues which writes original music along with updating folk classics in the punk vein. The band began playing Irish pubs and now headlines major festivals.
Indie began as a reference to any band recording on an independent label, but has developed in definition to refer to obscure music developed specifically to target the youth culture. Its goal is to remain independent, but some artists have become well known. A few, like Beck and Oasis, have gone from obscurity to AOR and Top 40 radio play without a major label signing.