‘Indie Music’: A Canadian Definition Explained


I’ve always had an issue with the term “indie music.”

Short for “independent,” it originally referred to any music not produced by a major commercial record label. But in recent decades, the definition has shifted away from addressing the type of distribution toward an aesthetic descriptor.

These days indie music is about a particular sound (acoustic guitars, handclaps, echoey vocals) and oftentimes an image (beards, animal names). The term is easily hyphenated: indie-rock, indie-pop, indie-folk, etc. In some ways the word stems from the older label “alternative music,” which we would still be using today if we were stuck in the 90s.

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