The History of Indie Rock


During the 1970s, a new form of rock music was formed in the United States and United Kingdom – called Indie Rock.

Indie Rock rooted in the word indie, which initially means “independent” record labels. Indie rock bands and artists take pride in their work and don’t focus on having mainstream success. Instead, indie artists put efforts in their freedom as musicians – and focus on voicing out their style. Usually, indie rock bands display a do-it-yourself attitude – despite having a relatively low budget. Indie artists demonstrated this attitude during the first few years they were introduced until it came such time when some remarkable indie artists became recognized into the mainstream – breaking the boundaries of indie rock culture.

Indie rock was introduced

The birth of indie music could be attributed to the accomplishment of the Manchester band, Buzzcocks. The band released a record, Spiral Scratch EP, in January 1977.

During the time, the band didn’t have any record label to support them in the production and publication of their record – which led them to the idea of independently publishing their work. Started from scratch, the band had to borrow £500 from their friends and family – to support the financial needs of the record’s production.

Interestingly, the record was released – which made Buzzcocks the first English rock band to independently produce their music record. Thus, the term “indie” was coined. In addition, the group managed to sell out its 1,000 original distributed copies – and was followed by selling 16,000 mail-ordered copies.

The musical influence of indie rock includes various genres – such as punk rock, post-punk, college rock, and alternative rock – which was used interchangeably with indie rock in the 1980s. The college rock played an important role in introducing indie rock to the masses. In the mid-1980, college radio playlists were greatly influenced by college rock – in which, one of them is REM.

REM, Pixies, The Replacements, and other college bands in the mid-1980s – became the foundation of indie rock. Being an inspiration to indie music, these bands helped in developing the indie rock scene.

Indie music comes with the passion of being unique – without the fear of pressure from the mainstream. Indie artists enjoy success by experimenting with emotion, exploring music, and having the freedom to create broader subjects that might not be appropriate to every audience. Indie rock set their own standards of music, making it more original and creative – which lacks some artists who are signed to a major label.

Indie rock became mainstream

Indie rock stepped on the world of the mainstream in the early 1990s. Despite the term used in describing indie music, being in the spotlight was still inevitable for indie bands and artists. Grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Soundgarden achieved commercial chart success and gained recognition worldwide. This accomplishment made by Nirvana and the other bands had set the standards when it comes to indie music.

Eventually, it brings into question the real meaning of indie music – since their cultural of independence seems to be fading. Later on, the term indie rock became used with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status.

Although it may be a bit challenging, some indie bands enter the mainstream while keeping the authenticity of their music. Like the US band REM (R.E.M), before going into the limelight, they first built a strong indie foundation – releasing five solid albums before signing a contract with Warners in 1988. Many other indie rock bands came into the scene, as major labels see them as a potential prospect – because of their authenticity and independent views.

Iconic indie rock bands

During the rise of indie rock, some artists went to the mainstream and left a remarkable name in the indie rock scene. Here are some of the most iconic indie rock artists of all time.


This band originated in Boston, and was formed in 1986. Pixies is responsible for the creation of the dynamic loud-quiet style. Their style hugely influenced alternative rock in the 90s.


An American rock band formed in 1980. During the time, REM was one of the leading alternative rock bands in the scene. In addition to releasing some of the best indie music, they, later on, signed a multi-million deal with Warners.

The Cure

The Cure was an English rock band formed in 1978. This band did significant work in the UK indie scene. Their work marks the standard for other groups in the UK, especially the time when they entered the mainstream.

The Strokes

An American rock band from New York formed in 1998. Their music reached all over the globe, as it hits the top charts during the early 2000s. The group received many nominations and awards throughout their music career.

The Smiths

An English rock band formed in 1982. The Smiths is one of the most influential British bands during their time. Many critics consider them as one of the most important British indie bands that emerged in the 1980s. The Smiths then signed an independent record label Rough Trade Records. In 2014 and 2015, the Smiths were announced as nominees to be a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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