Alternative music became popular in the 1990s and the term was used to describe the bands involved in the early 1990s phenomenon of independently recorded music which gained commercial success. As a specific genre, alternative rock does not refer to one specific style of music. There are various numerous sub-genres that fall under “alternative music”, such as grunge, indie rock, Britpop, gothic rock, indie pop, and many others. All these genres are united by their connection to 1970s punk, which is said to have laid the groundwork for alternative music. Independent record labels were established during the punk era because it created an alternative outlet for the musicians that didn’t necessarily agree with the agendas of major labels.

The music that makes up alternative rock is broad in terms of its sound, social context and roots. By the end of the 1980s the diversity of alternative rock was highlighted by magazines, radio and word of mouth, which helped to define a number of distinct styles such as indie rock and grunge. Most of the subgenres achieved minor mainstream notice and a few bands, like R.E.M, signed major labels.  With the breakthrough of Nirvana and the popularity of the grunge and Britpop movements in the 1990s, alternative rock entered the musical mainstream and many alternative bands became successful.

The history of alternative music

Alternative music is a huge form of expression. The lyrics of a song are extremely important for the musicians to tell a story to the listeners. A lot of alternative bands have sung about dark topics like drug and alcohol abuse, depression and society. However, there is also the completely opposite side of alternative music which shows bands singing about hope, battling addiction or depression and promoting peace, freedom and positivity. Throughout the 90s, alternative music grew a lot in popularity and rock became of the most commonly listened to genres. ‘Indie’ music, a genre which of has a softer sound than earlier alternative music, became largely popular with bands like Modest Mouse and The Kooks.

In some ways, the start of the 21st century showed a different meaning of “alternative”. Instead of being non-conformist and anti-mainstream, alternative music is now one of the most “mainstream” music genres out there and most bands start making alternative music hoping to make a career and money out of it. Alternative music still has a great sound but just in a different way. Most alternative bands or groups start out unsigned or signed to independent labels. The main change would be that these ands or groups rely on the internet to get their music to the public. There are also plenty of music festivals like Glastonbury which mainly showcase alternative, indie and rock artists and have “unsigned” stages where a lot of new bands are discovered every year.

Alternative rock music made a big splash in Britain where punk rock was more popular. In fact, it entered the mainstream first in Britain. Alternative rock music as well as indie music has grown in popularity over the years and it can now easily be shared internationally because of the internet. Bands and groups have a larger today,  than they did in the 90s.