what is indie music | magnetic magazine | clay banks

You’re in college. You’ve just joined a music club. It’s (supposedly) populated by none other than the most incredible, artsiest kids on campus. To break the ice, you ask everyone what their favorite genre is.

“I’m a pop girl,” someone answers.

“Rock fan here,” another says.

“I like country!” a girl calls out.

You roll your eyes. “Pfft, you guys are basic.” After rifling through your canvas tote bag, pulling out a novel, adjusting your wire glasses, and donning a thrifted turtleneck, you announce that your favorite genre is “indie music.”

The joke’s on you, cool cat: indie music isn’t a genre. Well… kind of. Read on to see what we mean. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, whet your musical appetite with 7 indie staples.

What Does “Indie Music” Mean?

Technically, indie music isn’t a genre. It’s a business model.

The word “indie” is a shortened form of “independent.” In the music world, “indie music” refers most literally to music released independently by an artist (as opposed to through a record label).

Consider the pros & cons of a major label vs. an indie label vs. staying independent.

If you look at indie music this way, sonic characteristics don’t matter when determining what songs “count” as indie music. A.K.A. songs as poppy as Katy Perry’s hits or as twangy as country artist Morgan Wallen’s could still technically be considered indie. Again, this is because any song can be considered indie so long as it’s released independently.

But… it’s not that simple.

What Does Indie Music Sound Like?

Some argue indie music does have its sound.

People who believe this might claim that the artistic freedom and low-budget nature of DIY release results in grittier and quirkier tracks than music produced for a major label. This implies that indie music does have its own unique set of auditory characteristics… and that it could be considered a genre.

Looking to make some DIY tunes, too? You can even start with Garageband.

For example, have a listen to NJ-based indie band Phoneboy’s song: “Hey, Kid!”

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