Alternative Music Genres List

The most comprehensive list of Alternative Music genres available on the Internet

The Music Genres List site covers many of the most popular styles of alternative music, we hope this becomes the definitive list of alternative music genres on the Internet, send an email to add @ musicgenreslist dot com if you feel any alternative music genres are missing and we’ll add to complete the music list.

Alternative music was a phrase invented in early 80s describing bands which broke from the barrage of pop and hair metal and formed a new direction of more focused and honest rock. It includes many subcategories including but not limited to; Grunge, Hard Rock, Rock, Experimental Rock, Progressive Rock, Gothic Rock, Punk Rock, Hardcore Punk, New Wave. Their only real connection in terms of roots is the English punk movement. In the early eighties alternative music was limited to a few college radio stations. In the mid 80s as it became more popular It began to take over college radio throughout the country. In the late 80s commercial stations slowly began to embrace what up till then had been known as college rock. They never sold many albums but the influence on the music community would be felt in a big way soon when the format evolved to the next stage.

  • Alternative Rock
  • College Rock
  • Experimental Rock
  • Goth Rock
  • Grunge
  • Hardcore Punk
  • Hard Rock
  • Indie Rock
  • New Wave
  • Progressive Rock
  • Punk
  • Shoegaze (with thanks to Jackie Herrera)
  • Steampunk (with thx to Christopher Schaeffer)
Alternative Music Genre Example Bands Example Songs
Art Punk Talking Heads, Wire, Devo “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads, “Outdoor Miner” by Wire, “Whip It” by Devo
Alternative Rock R.E.M., Radiohead, Nirvana “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M., “Creep” by Radiohead, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Britpunk The Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks “London Calling” by The Clash, “Anarchy in the UK” by Sex Pistols, “Ever Fallen in Love” by Buzzcocks
College Rock The Smiths, R.E.M., Pixies “This Charming Man” by The Smiths, “Radio Free Europe” by R.E.M., “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies
Crossover Thrash Suicidal Tendencies, Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.), D.R.I. “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies, “Speak English or Die” by S.O.D., “Acid Rain” by D.R.I.
Crust Punk Amebix, Crass, Nausea “Arise!” by Amebix, “Bloody Revolutions” by Crass, “Cybergod” by Nausea
Emotional Hardcore (Emo / Emocore) Rites of Spring, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jimmy Eat World “For Want Of” by Rites of Spring, “In Circles” by Sunny Day Real Estate, “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
Experimental Rock Sonic Youth, Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground “Teen Age Riot” by Sonic Youth, “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart, “Venus in Furs” by The Velvet Underground
Folk Punk Violent Femmes, The Pogues, Andrew Jackson Jihad (AJJ) “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes, “Dirty Old Town” by The Pogues, “People II: The Reckoning” by AJJ
Goth / Gothic Rock Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus, “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Lucretia My Reflection” by The Sisters of Mercy
Grunge Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Alive” by Pearl Jam, “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden
Hardcore Punk Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains “Rise Above” by Black Flag, “Straight Edge” by Minor Threat, “Banned in D.C.” by Bad Brains
Hard Rock Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Aerosmith “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, “Back in Black” by AC/DC, “Dream On” by Aerosmith
Indie Rock The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Pavement “Last Nite” by The Strokes, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys, “Cut Your Hair” by Pavement
Lo-fi Guided by Voices, Sebadoh, Pavement “Game of Pricks” by Guided by Voices, “Skull” by Sebadoh, “Summer Babe” by Pavement
Musique Concrète Pierre Schaeffer, Edgard Varèse, John Cage “Étude aux chemins de fer” by Pierre Schaeffer, “Poème électronique” by Edgard Varèse, “4′33″” by John Cage
New Wave Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, The Cars “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode, “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads, “Just What I Needed” by The Cars
Progressive Rock Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, “Roundabout” by Yes, “The Musical Box” by Genesis
Punk The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones, “God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash
Shoegaze My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride “Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine, “Alison” by Slowdive, “Vapour Trail” by Ride
Steampunk Abney Park, The Cog is Dead, Steam Powered Giraffe “Airship Pirate” by Abney Park, “The Death of the Cog” by The Cog is Dead, “Brass Goggles” by Steam Powered Giraffe


[one_half]Alternative rock music is really a name given to rock music that didn’t fit any other genre. However, the technical meaning is usually any rock music that descended from punk rock. A lot of rock music has been classified as alternative rock music even though some of these did not exactly fit the meaning.

Alternative rock music became popular in the 1990’s but the history or alternative rock music goes back farther than that. Before Nirvana brought alternative rock music to the mainstream audience, the music genre had been gaining popularity with the college crowds and music underground.

In the 1980’s REM was making their start in alternative rock music. Most of their airtime was given by college radio stations. This is where their loyal fan base started. However, their commercial success started at about the time that alternative started to really become popular in the 1990’s.

The popularity of alternative rock music came about after the grunge period. Grunge was a type of alternative rock music that denounced commercialism. This movement started in Seattle, Washington and soon took the world by storm. This was ironic since it was this type of music that helped to create the commercial success for alternative rock music. Bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Alternative rock music also made a big splash in Britain where punk rock was more popular. In fact, Alternative rock music entered the mainstream earlier in Britain than it did in the United States. This gave alternative bands a broader venue even before the popularity of alternative music in the United States.

During the height of success for alternative rock music, many record companies handed out the name to bands that fit the requirements loosely at best. This was done in hopes that the label of alternative would help sales. However, looking back one can see that some of this music was more pop than alternative.

Steampunk (excerpt from

“… can there actually be a musical genre called steampunk, and more importantly, does there need to be?

This debate isn’t exactly new; cyberpunk has seen this sort of thing before. Despite its established relationship with art and cinema, most people would struggle with naming any cyberpunk bands. The genre doesn’t officially exist. However, there are bands that fit the bill. Front Line Assembly is a flagship example. Yellow Magic Orchestra is regarded by some as the original cyberpunk band. Arguably, Gary Numan counts, too. But musically speaking, these bands don’t have much in common. This is the norm in the landscape of suggested cyberpunk offerings; from Front 242 to Information Society, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime to Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk, there really is no sonic cohesion.

However, it’s no lost effort. Cyberpunk has inspired musicians to write music that is decidedly against the grain while incorporating the cutting edge into their craft. The literature provides the substance, and new technologies provide the instruments. Ultimately, the selections hardly comprise a traditional genre, but they make for a satisfying playlist of musicians who understand cyberpunk’s legacy.”

Best Alternative Albums Ever?

Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons

When the World Comes Down (Deluxe Edition) – The All-American Rejects

Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay

Best-known proponents today 
Muse – U.K., Radiohead – U.K., Red Hot Chili Peppers – U.S.A., The Smashing Pumpkins – U.S.A., Foo Fighters – U.S.A., Incubus – U.S.A., Coldplay – U.K., The White Stripes – U.S.A., Linkin Park – U.S.A., Rage Against the Machine – U.S.A., R.E.M. – U.S.A., Barenaked Ladies – Canada, Nine Inch Nails – U.S.A.  Steampunk – Abney Park