The term "underground music" can be taken to denote those practices perceived as outside, or somehow opposed to, mainstream popular music culture. Underground music is intimately tied to popular music culture as a whole, so there are important tensions within underground music because it appears to both assimilate and resist the forms and processes of popular music culture.
Underground music may be perceived as expressing sincerity, intimacy, freedom of creative expression in opposition to those practices deemed formulaic or commercially driven. Notions of individuality non-conformity are also commonly deployed in extolling the virtue of underground music. There are examples of underground music that are particularly difficult to encounter, such as the underground rock scenes in the pre-Mikhail Gorbachev Soviet Union, or the modern anti-Islamic metal scene of theocratic states in the Arabian Peninsula. However most underground music is readily accessible, although performances and recordings may be difficult for the uninitiated to find.
Some underground rock bands never got non-mainstream roots. They are radical, aggressive 1960s bands such as The Velvet Underground,The Stooges, MC5, 70s bands like Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, and 80s hardcore punk bands like Discharge. Some underground styles eventually became mainstream, commercialized pop styles, as did for example, the underground hip hop style of the early 1980s. In the 2000s, the increasing availability of the Internet and digital music technologies has made underground music easier to distribute using streaming audio and podcasts. Some experts in cultural studies now argue that "there is no underground" because the Internet has made what was underground music accessible to everyone at the click of a mouse. One expert, Martin Raymond, of London-based company The Future Laboratory, commented in an article in The Independent , saying trends in music, art, and politics are:
... now transmitted laterally and collaboratively via the internet. You once had a series of gatekeepers in the adoption of a trend: the innovator, the early adopter, the late adopter, the early mainstream, the late mainstream, and finally the conservative. But now it goes straight from the innovator to the mainstream.
In effect, this means a boy band (for instance) could be influenced by a (formerly) obscure 1960s garage rock, early 1980s post punk, noise rock acts like Pussy Galore or even composers of avant-garde classical music such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, while maintaining recognizability as a boy band.
The term "underground music" has been applied to various artistic movements, for instance the psychedelic music movement of the mid-1960s, but the term has in more recent decades come to be defined by any musicians who tend to avoid the trappings of the mainstream commercial music industry otherwise it tells only truth through the music. Frank Zappa attempted to define "underground" by noting that the "mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground." In the 1960s, the term "underground" was associated with the hippie counterculture and psychedelic drugs, and applied to journalism and film as well as music, as they sought to communicate psychedelic experiences and Free love ideals. In modern popular music, the term "underground" refers to performers or bands ranging from artists that do DIY guerrilla concerts and self-recorded shows to those that are signed to small independent labels. In some musical styles, the term "underground" is used to assert that the content of the music is illegal or controversial, as in the case of early 1990s death metal bands in the US such as Cannibal Corpse for their gory cover art and lyrical themes. Black metal is also an underground form of music and its Norwegian scene are notorious for their association with church burnings, the occult, murders and their Anti-Christian views. All of extreme metal is considered underground music for its extreme nature. Gothic and Industrial are two other types of underground music originating in the late 1970s to mid 1990s with goth rock centering around vampires, black magic and the occult and Industrial using primarily computer generated sounds and hard driving beats.
Shlomo Sher's "philosophy for artists" argues that there are three common misconceptions about the "underground": that it refers exclusively to the rave/electronica scene; that it can be described with a vague, broad definition of "anything which is not mainstream"; and the myth that underground music is kept secret; he points out that no band or performer "exclud[es] virtually anyone or anything" using "secret passwords and hidden map points". Instead, Sher claims that "underground music" is linked by shared values, such as a valuing of grassroots "reality" over music with "pre-wrapped marketing glossing it up"; sincerity and intimacy; freedom of creative expression is valued over commercial success; art is appreciated as deeply meaningful fashion; and the Underground "difficult to find", because the scene hides itself from "less committed visitors" who would trivialize the music and culture.
In a Counterpunch magazine article, Twiin argues that "Underground music is free media", because by working "independently, you can say anything in your music" and be free of corporate censorship.The genre of post-punk is often considered a "catchall category for underground, indie, or lo-fi guitar rock" bands which "initially avoided major record labels in the pursuit of artistic freedom, and out of an 'us against them' stance towards the corporate rock world", spreading "west over college station airwaves, small clubs, fanzines, and independent record stores." Underground music of this type is often promoted through word-of-mouth or by community radio DJs. In the early underground scenes, such as the Grateful Dead jam band fan scenes or the 1970s punk scenes, crude home-made tapes were traded (in the case of Deadheads) or sold from the stage or from the trunk of a car (in the punk scene). In the 2000s, underground music became easier to distribute, using streaming audio and podcasts.
A music underground can also refer to the culture of underground music in a city and its accompanying performance venues. The Kitchen is an example of what was an important New York City underground music venue in the 1960s and 1970s. CBGBis another famous New York City underground music venue claiming to be "Home of Underground Rock since 1973".
Punk rock is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels.
The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashion, and other forms of expression, visual art, dance, literature and film. It is largely characterised by anti-establishment views, the promotion of individual freedom, DIY ethics, and is centred on a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock.
Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the mid-1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.
Alternative rock is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.
The music of New York City is a diverse and important field in the world of music. It has long been a thriving home for popular genres such as jazz, rock, soul music, R&B, funk, disco, and the urban blues, as well as classical and art music. It is the birthplace of hip hop, boogaloo, doo wop, bebop, New York punk rock, and US new wave. It's also the birthplace of salsa music, born from a fusion of Cuban and Puerto Rican influences that came together in New York's Latino neighborhoods in the 1960s. The city's culture, a melting pot of nations from around the world, has produced vital folk music scenes such as Irish-American music and Jewish klezmer. Beginning with the rise of popular sheet music in the early 20th century, New York's Broadway musical theater, and Tin Pan Alley's songcraft, New York has been a major part of the American music industry.
Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1980s built on the post-punk and new wave movements, incorporating different sources of inspiration from subgenres and what is now classed as world music in the shape of Jamaican and Indian music. It also explored the consequences of new technology and social change in the electronic music of synthpop. In the early years of the decade, while subgenres like heavy metal music continued to develop separately, there was a considerable crossover between rock and more commercial popular music, with a large number of more "serious" bands, like The Police and UB40, enjoying considerable single chart success. The advent of MTV and cable video helped spur what has been seen as a Second British Invasion in the early years of the decade, with British bands enjoying more success in America than they had since the height of the Beatles' popularity in the 1960s. However, by the end of the decade a fragmentation has been observed, with many new forms of music and sub-cultures, including hip hop and house music, while the single charts were once again dominated by pop artists, now often associated with the Hi-NRG hit factory of Stock Aitken Waterman. The rise of the indie rock scene was partly a response to this, and marked a shift away from the major music labels and towards the importance of local scenes like Madchester and subgenres, like gothic rock.
Australian indie rock is part of the overall flow of Australian rock history but has a distinct history somewhat separate from mainstream rock in Australia, largely from the end of the punk rock era onwards.
Acid rock is a loosely defined type of rock music that evolved out of the mid-1960s garage punk movement and helped launch the psychedelic subculture. The style is generally defined by heavy, distorted guitars, lyrics with drug references, and long improvised jams. Its distinctions from other genres can be tenuous, as much of the style overlaps with '60s punk, proto-metal, and early heavy, blues-based hard rock.
American rock has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and country music, and also drew on folk music, jazz, blues, and classical music. American rock music was further influenced by the British Invasion of the American pop charts from 1964 and resulted in the development of psychedelic rock.
German rock music (Deutschrock) came into its own only by the late 1960s, but spawned many bands spanning genres such as krautrock, Neue Deutsche Welle, heavy metal, punk, and industrial.
Pinoy rock, or Filipino rock, is the brand of rock music produced in the Philippines or by Filipinos. It has become as diverse as the rock music genre itself, and bands adopting this style are now further classified under more specific genres or combinations of genres like alternative rock, post-grunge, ethnic, new wave, pop rock, punk rock, funk, reggae, heavy metal, ska, and recently, indie. Because these genres are generally considered to fall under the broad rock music category, Pinoy rock may be more specifically defined as rock music with Filipino cultural sensibilities.
Rock music entered the Peruvian scene in the late 1950s, through listening to performers like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Bill Haley, who popularized rockabilly in the United States. The first Peruvian rock bands appeared during this time. They included Los Millonarios del Jazz, Los Stars, Conjunto Astoria, Los Incas Modernos, and Los Zodiacs.
Rock music and its subgenres are very popular in Portugal. The history of the Portuguese rock music scene spans several decades.
The music history of the United States includes many styles of folk, popular and classical music. Some of the best-known genres of American music are blues, rock and roll, and country. The history began with the Native Americans, the first people to populate North America. The music of these people was highly varied in form, and was mostly religious in purpose.
Neo-psychedelia is a diverse genre of psychedelic music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene, also called acid punk. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelia, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.
Psychedelic music is a wide range of popular music styles and genres influenced by 1960s psychedelia, a subculture of people who used psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline and DMT to experience visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia and altered states of consciousness. Psychedelic music may also aim to enhance the experience of using these drugs.
The history of the punk subculture involves the history of punk rock, the history of various punk ideologies, punk fashion, punk visual art, punk literature, dance, and punk film. Since emerging in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in the mid-1970s, the punk subculture has spread around the globe and evolved into a number of different forms. The history of punk plays an important part in the history of subcultures in the 20th century.
Garage punk is a rock music fusion genre combining the influences of garage rock, punk rock, and other forms, that took shape in the indie rock underground between the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bands drew heavily from 1960s garage rock, stripped-down 1970s punk rock, and Detroit proto-punk, and incorporated numerous other styles into their approach, such as power pop, 1960s girl groups and garage bands, hardcore punk, early blues and R&B, and surf rock.
A number of overlapping punk rock subgenres have developed since the emergence of punk rock in the mid-1970s. Even though punk genres at times are difficult to segregate, they usually show differing characteristics in overall structures, instrumental and vocal styles, and tempo. However, sometimes a particular trait is common in several genres, and thus punk genres are normally grouped by a combination of traits.