Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt-rock, or simply alternative) 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.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.The genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as the Velvet Underground and artists such as Syd Barrett, and continued to evolve through the 1980s. However, since the early 1990s the term has primarily served as a misleading marketing label to portray artists' image and musical output as "edgy" to unsuspecting consumers.
Traditionally, alternative rock broadly consisted of music that differed greatly 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, helping to define a number of distinct styles (and music scenes) such as noise pop, indie rock, grunge, and shoegaze. Most of these subgenres had achieved minor mainstream notice and a few bands, such as Hüsker Dü and R.E.M., were signed to major labels. But most alternative bands' commercial success was limited in comparison to other genres of rock and pop music at the time, and most acts 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.
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