The term ‘indie’ can be traced back to as early as the 1920’s after it was first used to reference independent film companies. Yes… Indie is used simply as an abbreviation of the word ‘independent.’ If we’re talking about music, indie music means ‘the music that was created by oneself.’ Actually it’s a little bit complicated.
‘Indie Music’ is not a genre. It is a term that describes how the music is created and published. We have to explain ‘the music that was created by oneself.’ more clearly. That means ‘do it yourself.’ If we pay all of the recording cost ourselves, all of our production fees, all of our touring advances, that is okay. We record it, we publish it, we pay it and stay away from the major record labels (Universal, Sony, Warner) and their subsidiaries (Reprise, Columbia, Arista etc.). Or we can find an ‘independent’ record label. That is the basis of indie music.
In fact, it all started with Motown Records, founded by Berry Gordy in Detroit in 1959. At the time, Major record labels dominated almost the entire market. But Motown has repeatedly released names such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, The Supremes, and has made its name in history. At the time, it was when we started to see the term Indie most prominent in the history scene.
In 1976, Buzzcocks released ‘The Spiral Scratch’ EP. It was the first D.I.Y. independently released records of the punk era. In 1983, The Smiths debuted with a sound against the popular music of the time, and they signed with Rough Trade Records, an independent record label. And again in the 80s, R.E.M’s Murmur album was released. It was an unusual sound. Later, Sonic Youth, Pixies and Dinosaur Jr’s albums were released on independent labels.
One of the most important events of the 80s was the c86. This was a compilation album from the British indie labels, released by New Magazine Express. With the mainstream success of grunge in the 90s, indie rock was born. These events later led to the birth of other indie titles such as indie pop and indie folk.
As it is seen, in fact, indie meant to produce music independently as a concept, to make albums, to distribute them independently, or to do them through companies that do this without being under the wing of major labels.
Although the word indie in the 90s combined with rock and started to be called a genre as indie rock, indie rock and indie still walk arm in arm. Even today they have an interesting relationship and it is still difficult to describe it. By the way the term ‘Indie Label’ can be a bit misleading these days, due to the fact that some large Indie labels are actually distributed by Major Labels. Nevertheless, a ‘true’ Indie Label means they are independent from any Major Label. And any indie music has the same meaning.
It is a fact that indie started as an attitude and proceeded like that. Today’s discussions are generally related to whether indie is meaningful or not. And today there are so many indie rock bands and it’s not clear what the indie attitude is.