Indie Down Under — Re-thinking Assumptions About International Music Trends

Guest post by Erin Simon (UG ’16) who is currently studying at NYU Sydney. We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz.

In the United States, indie pop artists like Vance Joy and San Cisco are known as fast up-and-comers, buzzed about by bloggers and slowly gaining traction on the Billboard charts. But in Australia, these are beloved hometown acts, far from simply having “indie” credibility – Vance Joy’s “Riptide” earned the coveted number 1 spot on the 2013 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown, arguably the most important music event in Australia. Every year, fans vote from all over the country to decide the most popular songs, which are then counted down on Australia Day each January. This year’s number one spot went to Chet Faker, an Australian electronic music act, who also appears to be known only by the most attuned listeners in the USA.

It is easy to think that popular music in America dominates in other parts of the world as well, especially in a place like Australia where the radio charts look strikingly similar. It is easy to think that the New York indie music scene is the place to find out about fresh new acts before anybody else. But as it turns out, a lot of the acts we are just starting to catch on to have been beloved by Aussies long before they made it across the Pacific.


So what really makes indie music indie? I always thought it was the underground nature of it, but the definition seems to have evolved to encapsulate more of a musical style than the community that listens to it. It prompts me to wonder how the indie music scene will continue to evolve in the United States, and if a more global perspective may shift the stereotypical mentality of American indie listeners. In the meantime, any indie lovers out there may want to take a peek at the Triple J Hottest 100 list – your next obsession just might be in Australia.