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A Swedish poster promoting underground music bands

Underground music is music with 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, and freedom of creative expression in opposition to those practices deemed formulaic or commercially driven. Notions of individuality and 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, which have amassed a devoted following over the years (most notably for bands such as Kino). However, most underground music is readily accessible, although performances and recordings may be difficult for the uninitiated to find.[citation needed]

Underground music has also been used to describe musical phenomena ignored by the mainstream media, especially after the period of "decline" in the mainstream of heavy metal especially the bands Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. The NWOBHM movement emerged which created a multitude of bands that kept heavy metal music alive and where it spread in the underground scene during the period of the mid 70's to the early 80's.[1][2][3][4][5]

Some underground styles eventually became mainstream, commercialized pop styles, such as the underground hip hop style of the early 1980s.[citation needed] 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. A current example of an underground internet music genre is Vaporwave. 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.[6]

Overview

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. Frank Zappa attempted to define "underground" by noting that the "mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground."[7] In the 1960s, the term "underground" was associated with 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. The Fugs have been described as "arguably the first underground rock group of all time".[8] The Velvet Underground and Mothers of Invention later followed suit and are also regarded as the earliest underground rock groups.[9][10]

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 is notorious for its association with church burnings, the occult, murders and Anti-Christian views. All of the extreme metal is considered underground music for its extreme nature.

Gothic and industrial music are two other types of underground music originating in the late 1970s and mid-1990s with gothic rock centering around vampires, black magic and the occult and industrial music using primarily computer generated sounds and hard driving beats.

In a CounterPunch 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.[11] 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."[12] 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.[13]

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. CBGB[14] was another famous New York City underground music venue claiming to be "Home of Underground Rock since 1973".[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ "The Official Black Sabbath Website :: The History of Black Sabbath". www.blacksabbath.com. Retrieved 2023-07-06.
  2. ^ "hmsoundhouse.com - The Heavy Metal Soundhouse and Bandwagon". 2015-11-17. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2023-06-27.
  3. ^ "The Living Archive of Underground Music: Sean T. Wright". The Living Archive of Underground Music. Retrieved 2023-06-27.
  4. ^ Tucker, John (2006). Suzie smiled...The new wave of British heavy metal. Church Stretton: Independent Music. ISBN 978-0-9549704-7-5.
  5. ^ Weinstein, Deena (2009-08-05). Heavy Metal: The Music And Its Culture. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-0-7867-5103-7.
  6. ^ "Meet the global scenester: He's hip. He's cool. He's everywhere". The Independent. 13 August 2008. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017.
  7. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (2010-08-17). "What the Web Means for Underground Music". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  8. ^ The Fugs at AllMusic
  9. ^ "The Velvet Underground: The band that made an art of being obscure". BBC News. 2021-10-13. Retrieved 2024-01-11.
  10. ^ "1970-04 What Ever Happened To The Mothers Of Invention?". www.afka.net. Retrieved 2024-01-11.
  11. ^ "April 2004 Underground Music is Free Media By MICKEY Z." Archived from the original on 2008-06-19.
  12. ^ "Essortment - Free Online Articles on Health, Science, Education & More". Archived from the original on 2008-06-24.
  13. ^ "Underground Music Podcast". mirPod. Archived from the original on 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  14. ^ BubbleUp, LTD. "CBGB - Birthplace of NYC's Rock, Folk & Punk Music". CBGB & OMFUG. Archived from the original on 2003-11-19.
  15. ^ "Security Check Required". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2018-05-11.