As in all things, where there is a mainstream, there will always be an alternative. In this case, a musical counter-culture. Alternative music originated from Rock music and developed from the underground and Indie music scene in the 1980's. It became widely popular in the 1990's and into the new millennium.
The term is most commonly associated with its commercial heyday as having a loud, distorted guitar sound. In fact, Alternative music crystallized around the punk movement in the 1970's. The Indie culture evolved in the 1980's and was mostly based around independent record companies, releasing music to fulfill their artistic vision, rather than aim for the top of the charts.
By the end of the 1980s magazines, college radio airplay and word-of-mouth increased the prominence of alternative music although the commercial success of many bands was limited in comparison to other musical genres at the time. Most acts remained tied to independent labels and received relatively little attention from mainstream radio, television or newspapers.
With bands like REM, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers, new alternative music became the buzzword of the early 90s. Alternative rock entered the musical mainstream, with former marginalized bands going on to selling millions of copies and becoming MTV sensations.
By the end of the decade, alternative rock's mainstream prominence declined due to a number of events, notably the death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain in 1994 and Pearl Jam's lawsuit against concert venue promoter Ticketmaster, which in effect barred the group from playing many major venues around the United States. In Britain, bands like Oasis and Blur were losing their luster. The hiatus of the Lollapalooza festival in 1998 marked another nail in the coffin and signified the decline in Alternative music's popularity. However, new indie music remained commercially viable into the start of the 21st century.
The heyday of Alternative music may be over, however, the sounds of indie pop and alternative rock continues to live on with countless of artists, still pushing music forward.