How was indie music born and how did it disrupt the consumption society?

The second half of the 20th century was marked by major cultural transformations at the international level. The economic globalization that took place in the immediate post-war period has been accompanied by cultural globalization, leading to major changes in the musical offer. With the emergence of new media such as television and radio, present at the end of the 1960s in almost all households – at the end of 1968, 95% of American households had a radio set and 61.9% a television – communication around genres has been facilitated, and has given a global aspect to musical productions.

The film, the radio, the magazines form a system. Each sector is standardized, and all are standardized for each one. It marked the emergence of a standardized musical offer in Western countries, with the same musical styles represented. The world witnessed the transnational commercialization of a genre or an artist, a form of cultural standardization. This new issue of cultural globalization has generated the spread of certain musical genres, bringing about the highlighting of a cultural monopoly of certain genres and artists, over-represented throughout the world.

A standardized world that needed to be challenged through music

Entertainment society has enabled the development of cultural industries. The field of music has seen itself profoundly disrupted by the development of the recording industry, leading to industrial-scale production of new musical releases, thus allowing a wide distribution throughout the world, of artists who will become worldwide known.

The standardization of goods thus applies to the cultural industries: The fact that the cultural industry addresses millions of people imposes methods of reproduction, which, in turn, provide standardized goods everywhere to satisfy the many identical requests. It is obvious that the emergence of cultural industries has led to a standardization of cultural goods, like music. Though all industrial mass production necessarily eventuates in standardization.

At the end of the 1960s, we witnessed a veritable “Beatlemania”, the Liverpool group having sold more than a billion records during their career. This new society of mass consumption has brought to the fore a specific culture: that of the star-system, of hits parades, and the charts on a global scale. Simon Frith goes so far as to speak of “mass music”, with the reappropriation of rock ideology by the music industry: “the founding values ​​of rock are reversed one by one by its industrial routinization and technical transformations“. Rock’n’roll then became an international consciousness, bringing together young people around the world eager to profit from adolescence.

Cultural globalization

And the emergence of cultural industries have resulted in the commodification of music, incorporating classical economic principles: search for economies of scale, vertical integration in production, the concentration of market by a bunch of music companies that form an oligopoly and control the music trends. In the 1980s and 1990s, 6 big companies shared 90% of the recording industry market: Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG – Germany), Electric and Musical Industries (EMI – Great Britain), PolyGram/Philips (Netherlands), Sony (Japan), Time/Warner (United States) and Universal (United States).

It is possible to deduce that music had only become a consumer product like any other: Big companies, therefore, coordinated the entire music production chain, from recording the disc to its distribution and then to its sale, avoiding intermediaries and maximizing profits according to a principle of synergy between different sectors ”

The entertainment society developed, and music became a mainstream consumer product. Popular music of the 1950s was one product among many, intended for the growing teenage market, and neither producers nor consumers were interested in disrupting the market, music was just any other product, subject of commercial exchange.

The consumption habits of the American people were changing, music taking an increasingly significant place in their daily lives. In 1981, 81% of American people listened to music against 66% in 1973, and 10% attended a jazz or rock concert against 6% in 1973. Consumerist habits are then put in place and records represented a real challenge for cultural industries. The music industry, which is a fringed oligopoly, had seized on it.

This market structure is characterized, in the music industry, by a few companies who share a large share of the market and many small labels which find themselves in a situation close to pure and perfect competition. Some companies specializing in electronics have diversified their activities and have become interested in music production. Philips and Sony thus became two record companies in 1962 and 1929 respectively and in 1970 were among the main players in the recording industry.

Beyond the search for economies of scale, the interest for the control of the recording industry and in particular of the distribution of the discs is to be able to impose their tariffs, limit the costs of transactions and thus constitute barriers to entry into the recording market, to limit competition from the smallest structures.

The guerilla tactic: how indie groups won their place in the music world

In opposition to the then-established music industry, run by a few large companies, a small fringe of independent labels was created in the 1970s with a “policy of ‘resistance’ to the oligopolies. Ideology is thus attached to the creation of these new small structures: that of music above all.

Northern Ireland punk band Stiff Little Fingers pay tribute to their label Rough Trade in the track “People who put music first” released on the album Inflammable Material (1979). Rough Trade is one of the most famous independent labels. After a closure between 1991 and 2000, the British label continues its activities, currently counting 20 artists.

Labels such as Rough Trade or the French equivalent Bondage created in 1982, display principles intrinsic to their organization: confidence in relations with the artists signed, democratized management with fixed salaries for the label’s employees.

The commercial success of Rough Trade shows that an alternative model to the capitalist model can be effective in music production. Passion for music brings together the initiators of these independent labels and remains the watchword today.

Among the biggest names of independent labels, we could count in the United States: Midnight, Epitaph, SST; in Great Britain: Rough Trade, Factory, and 4AD, and finally in France: Bondage, Closer, Gognaf Mouvement, Boucheries Production, and Danceteria. In the 1980s, French labels shared the then fashionable punk scene, producing Bérurier Noir, Mano Negra, Ludwig von88, Parabellum, and Wampas.

Bondage, whose name refers to the sadomasochistic practice associated with the punk movement through the aesthetics of the dressing, was inspired by the ideology advocated by Rough Trade.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the terms rock and pop were taken over by the newly created music industry and mass distribution. These terms, inseparable until the mid-1970s, designate the commercial music then in vogue. “Rock”, in its more global sense, becomes “the generic term for American and British popular music, then Western music”.

The terms “pop” and “rock music” became pejorative during the 1960s, reducing this unique musical genre to an easy and watered-down artistic creation, and built with a sole objective: the search for profits.

The Punk movement leads to indie success, breaking the status quo

It was in this logic of fervent critic of the star system and the teen idols, which appeared in the late 1960s, that the punk movement developed. The term “punk” means a rascal, a thug. From 1965, it is used to designate the new cultural movement on the fringes, with which the punk-rock musical current is associated.

Through this new form of amateur rock, mainly adolescent and in opposition to the consumerist logic of the commercial creation of rock music, punk-rock seeks a return to the authenticity of the music, in its structure and its values. Its rebellious authors thus create a new non-genre musical style, by provoking established aesthetic codes.

This reappropriation of rock and pop has the effect of reinventing musical codes. The punk movement, anti-pop in essence, paradoxically provoked a renaissance of the genre: by rehabilitating the three-minute song and returning to a requirement of immediate effectiveness.

The punk movement, through its music and its return to authenticity, allows regeneration of the pop and rock genres, leaving room for new definitions of these terms thanks to new aesthetics, which will subsequently be classified under the label ” indie ”.

The year 1976 marked the advent of punk

With the first edition of the eponymous newspaper in New York, imposing Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground on the cover. That same year marked the debut of The Clash which would become one of the flagship groups of the punk movement.

In its then-fashionable critique of rock, the punk movement affirms its distance from rock’n’roll by defining itself in total opposition to the genre. The group Subway Sect advocates this vision categorically in their song “We oppose all Rock’n’roll” of the B-side “Different Story” released in 1978 by Rough Trade.

The neologism “rockism” appeared in 1981 with singer and guitarist Pete Wylie. He used this notion during the launch of his campaign “Race against Rockism” by which he put forward his ardent criticism of the musical genre “rock”, widely marketed and devoid of its artistic value by the clichés which defined it. This term reappeared in the 2000s with a new boom in rock, criticizing the elitist character of rock fans.

A rockist is not just someone who loves rock ‘n’ roll

Who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock’n’roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon.

Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-synch.

This definition of the term “rockism” offers a new angle and a more general meaning of the term, turning it against its original definition. If Pete Wylie wanted, through his campaign to criticize the excesses of rock’n’roll of the 1960s and 1970s, by this definition, the American journalist and music critic Kelefa Sanneh questions the punk heritage by immediately associating it with rockism.

In 1970, the world witnessed a re-concentration of the music industry.

Four majors are at the top of record sales in the United States: Columbia, Warner Brothers, Capital, and Motown. These companies are even starting to compete with the European majors in the European market.

This market structure leaves little room for small structures, their desire to promote a marginal scene, and the artistic creation of artists who do not follow the codes imposed by the majors is oppressed. During this period, we are witnessing a massification of musical consumption. The 1970s represented a strong development of cultural practices.

The punk movement intervenes against this massification of culture and draws its roots from various ideological and artistic movements, precursors in the rejection of the established order. If we can draw a parallel between the punk movement and Dadaism, artists such as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Edgar Varèse can be compared, in a musical form to the work of Marcel Duchamp on the deconstruction of the work of art and the questioning of conventions.

The aesthetic of punk-rock

Was built on the highlighting of real noises that were conceptualized in the musical field through the work of Varèse. He was particularly interested in the work of sound and not of notes, in the different timbres that can exist in music. He thus affirmed: “the raw material of music is sound”.

In the popular consideration of the punk movement, we can recognize Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard as precursors, as their artistic creations have the will to unravel the gospel music of the Black Church to extract the rhythm and the ardor, to offer a piece of music and dance approaching trance and cathartic effect.

The rebel spirits tend to support each other and this way, indie music has found support to keep growing and this website it’s a proof of it.


Born to be independent: what’s indie music all about?

The use of the term “independence”, and its English shorthand “indie”, is not trivial, since it marks, by its negative etymological construction, the firm ideological opposition to the functioning of the traditional recording industry. The “indie” label of a musical movement thus refers to a real desire to distinguish itself from the major trends of the music industry.

The market leaders have indeed for objective the musical production in its economic definition, the search for profit, even before the artistic purpose. Indie music thus allowed the emergence of a parallel industry whose leitmotif would be “music first”. Many independent labels, therefore, sprang up in the early 1980s, offering a new model in the music industry in the United Kingdom, the United States, then in France. Since the early 2000s, India has experienced a resurgence of interest and is establishing itself as a real trend in the Western cultural world.

It increasingly characterizes a musical genre in its own right. If the term “indie”, in the 1980s, qualified a new model of musical production, it now commonly designates independent fringes of rock, pop, and other musical genres that result from it.

Independence in music therefore seems to be a polysemous notion

Which ultimately depends on individual acceptances. This musical independence can be compared to the ambivalence of the “distinction between the author’s cinema and commercial cinema”.

Historically, this definition would seem to correspond to independence in the production of albums, away from the traditional music industry on the creative process. For some, the independence of a band ends when, even if it is produced by an independent label, it is distributed by a major company in the industry.

Furthermore, for musical movements that are on the fringes of the mainstream, independence can be seen as a means of distancing from musical fashions and trends, and from the styles that dictate the music market. Finally, independence in music can also simply refer to the idea of ​​freedom in the creative process, free from the potential demands of the market, the public, and the majors.

Nevertheless, there is today a tendency to assimilate the terms “indie” and “independent” to a musical genre in its own right, thus significantly changing their meaning compared to their initial use: “Today, the words’ indie ‘and’ independence ‘are commonly taken only to be connotative of a musical style, yet during an earlier punk/post-punk period they were used to denote a specific economic division from the trending labels ”.

If indie is mainly used to designate genres close to rock and pop, in their dimension of independence, it can also be used to qualify the independent counterparts of other musical genres, so that we sometimes hear about indie rap. So, what is indie music?

Indie music can be objectively defined or is it characterized by its blurred lines?

This “indie” musical genre is not always used in the same way. Indeed, some bands define themselves as indie, for simplicity: “we say ‘indie’ like that, that makes everyone agree”. Others use this name in addition to another musical genre, such as with the definition indie-pop or indie-rock. Indie can be a label that allows everyone to identify themselves as they wish. In a comparative aspect with other pre-indie musical genres, new definitions may emerge, such as that of white and relatively young music which took place at a time when pop music drew its influences from black music.

The term “indie” remains closely linked to the notion of independence because it reflects a de facto independence of groups labeled as such. Indie can thus be defined as “a perpetually ambiguous genre, divided between the fringes and the latest trends, defined as both a shaky economy and an aesthetic”. By being part of independent music, indie then designates a musical movement in its own right, with aesthetics derived from rock.

This nevertheless results in a certain ambiguity as to the definition of the term “indie”, in particular concerning the counter-culture to which it refers. Some media have been interested in its current definition and have highlighted some deviations from the initial ideology based on the notion of independence. Indeed, current groups such as Radiohead or the Arctic Monkeys defined as indie, are criticized for this definition because of the commercial recovery of which they are the subject: “Arctic Monkeys are still called an indie band, but the closest thing their new record sounds like is somewhere between Black Sabbath and Dr. Dre. Where’s the indie in that? “, would some Twitter trolls say. The ambivalence of this term developed with the resurgence of the genre in the 2000s seems to be an important element in understanding the musical current it defines.

The indie way of life corresponds to the title of the book released in 2015 by Editions de Juillet to celebrate the twenty-five years of the Route du Rock festival. It traces the history of the Saint-Malo festival, which clearly shows the desire to honor independent music in its program. The festival has been organized since the end of the 1980s characterized by its indie way of life, it represents the oldest indie festival in France. Guided by the requirements of a program invoking “the absence of compromise”, the festival’s policy has thus enabled its organizers to unite an audience around their initial project. By developing this indie philosophy, or by refusing to submit to the music industry and its fashions, the Route du Rock maintains the course of musical discoveries, produced on a small scale and independently. The expression “indie way of life” indeed reflects a real ethic: if its center of gravity remains indie music, musicians and non-musicians increasingly share lifestyles such as vegetarianism, a return to vintage, and local consumption. Through music, indie thus presents itself, by definition, as a counter-culture to consumer society, integrating since the early 2000s different areas of everyday life.

Indie as a permanent phenomenon instead of a temporary music wave

With the development of this new industry, a certain institutionalization has taken place, especially in Europe, due to the cultural exception to which it claims to be and the cultural policies undertaken in the field of contemporary music. This term of current music is used by the public authorities to define the music of the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century.

However, it is relevant to relate the indie ideology based on the independence of music and musical creation with the frameworks imposed by public institutions in terms of contemporary music. This approach allows us to better understand the criticisms related to the use of the term “indie” for music that may seem institutionalized.

The historicity of the musical style is essential for understanding what has become of indie music today and the lifestyles associated with it. Different periods can be highlighted. The beginnings of the genre can be dated from 1965, with the punk movement and its opposition to the monopoly of the big companies on the music industry, and more generally to the consumer society developed during the post-war boom.

On the other hand

The end of the 1970s marked the advent of indie music, notably with the release of the album Unknown Pleasures (1979) by Joy Division which established the new-wave genre as one of the main trends in music indie. This period was marked by the proliferation of labels and structures linked to the independent music market. Finally, the 1990s illustrate a period of depression, characterized by a challenge by the market, independent structures supporting the parallel musical economy of indie artists.

So in 1991 and 1992, two decisive brands for indie music, the British labels Rough Trade and Factory closed their doors. Nevertheless, the beginning of the 2000s was characterized by a renewed interest in indie music, with the return of various significant elements of this culture. In 2003, the White Stripes revived vinyl, a historical medium of indie music, forgotten since the end of the 1980s.

After nine years of closure, the Rough Trade label reopened in 2000, and many festivals put on in the spotlight indie music, like Rock en Seine, created in Saint-Cloud in 2003, the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago created in 2005, or The End of the Road in England created in 2006. Many indie festivals have emerged in recent years, reflecting the renewed interest in this musical genre. Since 2011, the Pitchfork Music Festival has organized an edition at La Villette in Paris.

Renewed interests

Likewise, the This Is Not A Love Song of Nîmes and Cabourg Mon Amour were created in 2012. The observation of this renewed interest in indie music, whether by artists, by the specialized press, or by the multiplication of structures dedicated to this musical movement is evident nowadays. This raises the question: how can indie music today be defined in the light of the evolution of the music industry, between counter-culture and institutionalization?

On the other hand, to answer this central question, the specialized French and Anglo-Saxon press came to support the analysis of the indie current, also questioning the evolutions of the movement by confronting the current stakes of indie music and its beginnings. The digitization of information, and the Internet, have also made it possible to have access to archival articles and interviews testifying to the historicity of the indie movement, the values ​​that defined it in its early days, and the evolutions that have marked it. Also, in understanding the recording market and more generally the music industry, public reports, and studies by the various public and private actors characterizing it, have played a fundamental role in the study of the challenges of independent music at its beginnings.

When we speak about indie music, we only agree that we don’t agree

When you try to define what “indie music” is, you get caught up in a long, long conversation … This term is often used to distinguish music produced by majors from music produced by independent labels. Ok, but Motown and Sun Records are independent labels. And let’s face it Diana Ross and Elvis Presley aren’t necessarily the artists you think of when you say “indie music”.

They are far too “mainstream”, inevitably follows the debate, which is not worth the trouble of pulling your hair out, where one will wonder vehemently at what level of sales a group is no longer indie. We will then quote the Arctic Monkeys and we will determine whether or not the Velvet Underground was already an independent group or not.

To grapple with the definition of indie music is ultimately to ask, “What is counterculture?” “, And if the indie spirit reappeared indeed in the early 2000s with the creative revival amplified by the Internet. Indie artists are the ones who do a lot of things on their own. They play music, set up their label, create their fanzines, or their blog as needed”.

The essence of indie music

Therefore, lies in the Do-It-Yourself side of the musicians’ artistic project: Suddenly, the artistic project is sincere, it gives singularity to the project, we have fewer chances of being formatted, the sound is more natural, more authentic, carried by enthusiasts. Festivals like This Is Not a Love Song were born from the meeting of enthusiasts, who wanted to set up a festival that resembles them, with an atmosphere, a state of mind that we not necessarily found elsewhere.

The decor of the festivals is made by volunteers who make everything: It gives the festivals a hippie chic side. The Do-It-Yourself philosophy is also expressed through workshops and events. From the making of a jewel, a wreath of flowers, through the screen printing of posters, the recording of a piece of music, or the participation in a giant speed meeting, the indie music festivals make the public a real actor.

Therefore, indie music has revealed itself as the destabilizing factor that statical music needs to move forwards its limits. Without this independent musician, we wouldn’t be able to hear new styles of music, to enjoy new waves, and to keep curious and fun, by experimenting with new sensations each time we hear something we had never imagined that was possible to create. Indie music is the paradise of the senses and that is certain.


Noah Gundersen

Noah Gunderson is an American singer-songwriter of indie folk music. Born on May 31, 1989, he is the oldest of five biological siblings and three adopted siblings. Born in Olympia Washington, he was part of a family that would later move to Centralia, Washington when he was five years old. Gundersen was raised and homeschooled in an extremely conservative Christian house, but also very musical.

He started taking piano lessons at home at the age of thirteen, a short time later after his father inherits him an electric guitar in 2002, he learned to play the guitar.

At the age of 16, Gundersen found himself playing in local restaurants. And in 2006 his sister Abby, a cellist, violinist, pianist, and harmony singer, began to play with him. The duo began acting as a full band under the name Courage.

Later at the age of 18, Gundersen left his home to pursue a musical career and thus begin playing in bars around Seattle.

While still a teenager, Noah Gundersen formed his first band post-hardcore called Beneath Oceans in 2007. Along with a group of friends from his high school. The band was formed by Gundersen, Michael Porter on the lead guitar, and Keelan O’Hara on the drums.


After Gundersen produced his first EP, Brand New World, very early in his solo career he continued to play in Seattle. Gundersen claims to have been influenced in the musical world by Ryan Adams, Neil Young, and Dashboard Confessional.

While Gundersen was part of the band The Courage. Formed by his friends and his 16-year-old sister, they served as the background band for the performances of songs from the Brand New World album in clubs and bars around Washington State.

The group later recorded the live album, Live at the Triple Door, under the name of Noah Gundersen & The Courage in 2008. In 2008 and 2010 the band performed at the Sisters Folk Festival. Later that year, the group evolved a little more and they managed to record their first debut album called Fearful Bones, under the general name of The Courage in 2010.

However, while Gundersen recorded and played with The Courage, he remained focused on his solo career.

His second EP, Saints & Liars, was out in 2009. A recording of the original EP circulated to the desk of the producer Daniel Mendez, who modified and mixed the EP for a full release.

Mendez later worked with Gundersen to release a follow-up EP to the previous one, Family, in 2011.

Gundersen’s career after the EP, Family, was propelled aggressively toward fame. Also, his song title Family was personally chosen by the producer Kurt Sutter for the famous FX television show Sons of Anarchy.

The song Family also made an appearance on the television series The Vampire Diaries. And the track David was also used for an episode of The Following, a Fox series in 2015.

In 2014, Gundersen self-produced the same debut album, Ledges, at Studios Litho in Seattle, owned by the Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.

The album includes songs with themes of hope, death, and past relationships. The debut album served to finish propelling Gundersen’s career even further towards the Indie Folk stardom. While touring with his debut album, Gundersen exclusively sold a five-song EP called Twenty-Something. His songs were previously available online through the deluxe version of Ledges.

After his breakthrough in the world of music with Ledges, Gundersen returned to the studio once again to record his second LP, Carry the Ghost, which was released in 2015. The album chronicles the challenges of success, failed relationships, sexuality, and religion. Gundersen said it was inspired by Neil Young’s album, Tonight’s the Night.

Then in 2015, Gundersen helped David Ramirez to produce his album Fables, which was released on August 28.

During a break from the tour itinerary, Gundersen returned to his homeland and reunited with his friends from his high school, Beneath Oceans. Originally, the group got together again and started playing old songs from their early days as a kind of an inside joke.

Gundersen said in an interview, “We reconnected to see if the old songs were still a good thing. They weren’t, so we started writing new songs.”

On December 1, 2015, the group measured their first album, an eponym EP called Young in the City. The album’s release was followed by a series of performances in Seattle and a second EP released on October 7, 2016.

Later in July 2017, Gundersen announced the full release of a new solo album, White Noise. The title was released on September 22, 2017. It was characterized by being different in style from Gundersen’s previous albums, with a much heavier rock-inspired sound.

Finally, on June 21, 2019, the artist announced the prompt release of another solo album called, Lover, which was released on August 23 of the same year. And also the same day, he released a single from the album called Robin Williams.

Noah Gundersen on therapy, mushrooms and his new album, 'Lover ...

Noah Gundersen and the Mushrooms. 

Last year Noah Gundersen had many projects in hand. It was also the year in which he changed his abundant hair to cut it to the skull and changed it from brown to bright yellow.

“It has been a year of many changes,” Gundersen said.

The artist spent most of the 2019 time, writing and recording his fourth album, Lover. On August 23 of that year, Gundersen appeared on Easy Street Records in West Seattle and then embarked on a North America tour that took him to Seattle’s Showbox on November 26.

“I was ready for a drastic change,” Gundersen, 30, said of his new look and new more sensitive sound. “I needed something different. I think in terms of seasons and chapters of things in life, and now in lighter feelings”.

Gundersen was saying in a private room in Canlis, where his record company threw a party to listen to the album Lover, with the help of the artist’s closest friend, chef Brady Williams. At the party, Gundersen was posted in front of one of the restaurant’s large windows, presenting and explaining the origin of each song.

The singer revealed that he wrote Lover, for a week he spent at his parent’s house. He said he was riding his motorcycle from the grocery store thinking about the lyrics and “spinning things around”.    

Gundersen stood that 2018 was a very difficult year for him. “A lot of personal things, things from the career. Financial problems. All that was about to break me. But it all also forced me to lighten a bit the load that I was carrying”

Besides, the singer began attending therapy and eating psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes.

“The therapy changed my perspective on how I saw things,” he said. “Now I take myself with less seriousness, which as a singer and songwriter is sometimes necessary”

Gundersen recorded Lover at The Crumb studio in Seattle, with his longtime collaborator and producer Andy D. Park. Together, the friends explored themes of love, failure, sex, drugs, age and regrets, and the quest for acceptance and peace.

The first song on the album is titled Robin Williams, which the singer wrote after watching the HBO documentary, Come Inside my Mind, which was about the life of the actor and comedian who died by suicide in August 2014.

Gundersen has been in the world of music for over a decade now. He feels it but welcomes the feeling. He claims that he likes being and feeling older, and really loves the wisdom he adds to his music.

In the latest new, Gundersen said he was about to release a new run of A Raven and A Dove.

“From an artist’s point of view, I’m not a child anymore,” Gundersen pointed. “The way the music world is changing is because people are so young. So I think I am something between a new face and an old friend”