Difference between Indie and Alternative

Difference between Indie and Alternative: For the Love of Music

To this day, a wide demographic still fails to distinguish indie music from alternative music. One might mistake both as the same genre, but a closer look exposes their differences.

What’s the difference between Indie And Alternative?

The difference between indie and alternative is their separate origin and unique evolution. Alternate music emerged from Indie and rock music back in the ’70s. What contrasts alternative from indie is its deviation from indie and acquiring a whole new identity. Indie started in the UK while the alternative originated in the US. 

That’s not all. The two genres have a long, rich history that made them distinctive from each other. We’ve explained those differences in detail.

Let’s dive in-

Indie vs Alternative: Key Differences

Before we head straight to the details, let’s familiarize ourselves with the key differences in short.

We made a table noting all the major differences between indie and alternative for your convenience. Let’s take a look-

Sound Sweet and melancholicMysterious and unique sounds
OriginsThe Late 70sThe early 80s
Demographic Age15-2514-50
BandsArctic Monkey, Arcade Fire, PavementNirvana, R.E.M, Pixies

Detailed Comparison

Many believe that the only difference between the two genres is their difference in origin. This is actually true to some extent. They did start on the same stride in their genesis. But with time, both genres grew more distinct and went their own separate ways.

Let’s understand their differences in detail-


Oftentimes, the origin of the music dictates its style and evolution. What makes indie and alternative similar, yet different is their different origins. Let’s understand how-


Indie, at its core, is a British expression that was termed to label independent records. The foundation of what we know today as indie music was actually established by the Buzzcocks.

Spiral Scratch— Buzzcocks’ extended play paved the way for indie music in 1977. Hence, the indie music genre was born in Bolton, England.


Similar to indie, the alternative music genre emerged its roots from post-punk. 

Alternative music was originated in the USA in the early ‘80s. Vastly contrasting to mainstream music, the alternative is actually a unique body of some well-established sub-genres.


merging as a subgenre of traditional punk rock, both music started on a similar foot. But with time, their style varied, and so did the sounds. Nowadays, indie and alternative sound different from each other. Here’s how-


After the ‘80s indie renaissance, the genre was widely appreciated for its soft, melancholic tunes. 

Indie music is not bound by any set regulations. The source of its distinct sound is the expression of the artist’s own personality. Nonetheless, a lot of people believe that all indie singers sound the same.

Although it has to be an independent record, indie can follow the mainstream genres. ‘’Sprawl II’’ by Arcade Fire is an example of indie music.


Often termed as the ‘’edgier brother’’ of indie, alternative music possesses a comparatively harsher tone. Many attributes such rocky edge of the genre as a direct influence of ‘80s USA.

The use of electric guitar and rock sounds were all too common in this genre. This added high-energy sound sets it apart from its counterpart.

Alternate music doesn’t follow mainstream music. Nevertheless, it does borrow some elements from it and create its own unique brand of music.

‘’Smells Like Teen Spirit’’ by Nirvana is a perfect example of alternative music.

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Each genre targets a certain demographic audience for its music. They are the key listeners of that genre. The differences of demographics of indie and alternative are-


Indie music has a large demographic residing in a slim age range of 15 to 25. Teenagers, as well as young adults, love indie for its subdued form of rock music. It’s for people who love softer, easygoing songs.


A vast demographic listens to alternative music due to their close touch with rock music. Alternative music still possesses most elements of rock music and many people love rock music.

The target audience of alternative music is around 14 to 50 years old.

What are the Sub-Genres of Indie and Alternative Music?

With consistent evolution, a genre usually finds itself giving birth to many sub-genres. Indie and Alternative also have their own sub-genres.

The great thing about indie music is its ever-expanding style of music. Thanks to its experimental nature, the genre constantly keeps adding new elements to itself. From soul-soothing folk music all the way to the electronic. Indie just keeps evolving.

Despite seeing its fair share of evolution, alternative stuck to a handful of sub-genres. The most notable of them are funk, hip hop, and pop music. Starting off as a rock music genre, alternative took off in the late 90s. Soon, the genre mutated into a collection of all elements of American music.

To this day, both genres are adding more and more tracks to their already rich library. Along the way, we discover some hidden gems that are celebrated for years to come.


What differs pop from alternative?

Pop music differs from alternative when it comes to production and labeling. Alternative artists are the writer of their own songs and use the instruments by themselves. Pop singers, on the other hand, have other people aid with their songs. Most pop singers rely on ghostwriters, and entourage for other aspects of the songs.

Who are the key demographic listeners of alternative?

Alternative music has reached a peak of popularity since the early ‘90s. And ever since then, it has amassed a wide range of fans. The average alternative music fan can be anywhere from 15 to 50 years old.

Is Billie Eilish an indie-pop singer?

Billie Eilish is widely acclaimed as an indie-pop singer. She makes music that consists of melancholic tones, thus having an indie structure to her music. However, she is too much of a mainstream singer due to her popularity and commercial success.

Bottom Line

We reached the end of the line knowing the difference between indie and alternative. Even with similar origins, both genres managed to establish their separate presence in the music industry.

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