Alternative rock is a genre of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s and 2000s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock 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, D.I.Y. ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock (including some examples of punk itself, as well as new wave, and post-punk).
By 1984, a majority of groups signed to independent record labels mined from a variety of rock and particularly 1960s rock influences. This represented a sharp break from the futuristic, hyper-rational post-punk years.
Throughout the 1980s, alternative rock remained mainly an underground phenomenon. While on occasion a song would become a commercial hit or albums would receive critical praise in mainstream publications like Rolling Stone, alternative rock in the 1980s was primarily featured on independent record labels, fanzines, and college radio stations. Alternative bands built underground followings by touring constantly and by regularly releasing low-budget albums. In the case of the United States, new bands would form in the wake of previous bands, which created an extensive underground circuit in America, filled with different scenes in various parts of the country. Although American alternative artists of the 1980s never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on later alternative musicians and laid the groundwork for their success. By 1989 the genre had become popular enough that a package tour featuring New Order, Public Image Limited and The Sugarcubes toured the United States arena circuit.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_rockAlternative rock bands: 13 bands in database
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