Alternative rock, or alt-rock, is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1990s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to musicians influenced by the musical style or independent, DIY ethos of late-1970s punk rock.
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s–early 1980s, United States and United Kingdom|
Traditionally, alternative rock varied in terms of its sound, social context, and regional roots. Throughout the 1980s, magazines and zines, college radio airplay, and word of mouth had increased the prominence and highlighted the diversity of alternative rock's distinct styles (and music scenes), such as noise pop, indie rock, grunge, and shoegaze. In September 1988, Billboard introduced "alternative" into their charting system to reflect the rise of the format across radio stations in the United States by stations like KROQ-FM in Los Angeles and WDRE-FM in New York, which were playing music from more underground, independent, and non-commercial rock artists.
Initially, several alternative styles achieved minor mainstream notice and a few bands, such as R.E.M. and Jane's Addiction, were signed to major labels. Most alternative bands, however, remained signed to independent labels and received relatively little attention from mainstream radio, television, or newspapers. With the breakthrough of Nirvana and the popularity of the grunge and Britpop movements in the 1990s, alternative rock entered the musical mainstream, and many alternative bands became successful.
Bands such as the White Stripes and the Strokes found success in the early 2000s, influencing an influx of new alternative rock bands that drew inspiration from garage rock, post-punk and new wave found commercial success in the early and mid 2000s, establishing the garage rock revival and post-punk revival movements.