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Millennials have inconsistently defined indie rock since it was thrust onto the mainstream in 2004 with the breakout success of Modest Mouse’s Float On, Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out, and Zach Braff’s Garden State. Indie rock is not defined by its sound, thereby disqualifying it as a pure genre. Indie rock is defined by its aesthetic qualities: anti-mainstream appeal, style, promotion, etc. Indie rock is flexibly defined person to person as they perceive it. Consumers define indie rock by its themes being implicitly anti-mainstream and a less-produced sound while producers define indie rock by a musician’s creative control over the music’s creation, distribution, and marketing. Millennials are experience-based, aesthetics driven customers and are, therefore, drawn to indie rock so that its image may be projected onto them. Businesses have noticed that marketing an experience yields higher sales and are now marketing experiences to the Millennial demographic. Independent musicians have often deluded their music with pop themes and production in order to appear more marketable and attractive to major record labels, thus blurring the line between indie rock and mainstream pop. I conducted research on the top 5 year-end songs according to Billboard and Pitchfork from 2014-2004, Billboard representing mainstream pop and Pitchfork representing indie rock. I analyzed these accepted indie rock songs against accepted mainstream pop songs to find that there is no distinct overarching difference between what is deemed indie rock and what is deemed mainstream pop. Business are adept and finding their target audience and always being able to sell what someone may want to buy. Indie rock has a consumer base who values the individuality and perceived authenticity of indie rock, however, indie rock is just a product marketed to this section of the consumer base and perceived authenticity is perceived after all.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Cultural Studies


indie, rock, mainstream, pop, music, millennial, Billboard, Pitchfork, Indie rock, Selling Out


Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Public Relations and Advertising

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Professor Boyes


© The Author(s)

Indie Rock and Mainstream Pop are Thematically, Instrumentally, and Structurally Analogous