The State of Indie Music, According to Spotify’s Editors

One of the characteristics that gives indie its wide-ranging appeal is its ability to embrace a variety of sounds, moods, and geographies in ways that few other genres can. This overlap of influences is not lost on Spotify’s global team of indie music editors, responsible for playlists such as All New Indie, Lorem, and Oblique. Though these three playlists have three unique moods, each is very much rooted in indie.

Groups of Spotify editors make up our Global Curation Groups, or GCGs. As the name suggests, they sit in offices around the world and are in the know on the artists that listeners are streaming the most, the new tracks that are about to break, and the trends that come out of these listening habits. Plus, they’re genre experts—as well as fans themselves—who thrive on deep cultural discussions about the music they curate. 

Which is why For the Record spoke to the indie GCG editors to get a sense of what’s hot in 2022 and what to expect going forward. Here’s what we heard.

A new sound for a new generation

Indie has dramatically expanded its horizons in recent years, according to our editors. Sonically, indie is pulling inspiration from electronic, pop, and hip-hop more than ever, from a wildly diverse group of artists. And geographically, indie’s increasing global popularity has led to the genre being infused with a diverse array of regional sounds.

This cross of so many different genres and cultures has led to it functioning as a springboard for exciting new creators who pop up in playlists like Modern Alternative.

One rising star in particular is RADAR artist Arlo Parks, who is also nominated for two Grammys in 2022. Drawing from a variety of influences, including folk, disco, and trip-hop, her music offers a window into growing up Black in London.

Artists who defy convention

Thanks to the rising influence of Gen Z, the genre is also being pushed forward by a community-driven mindset that values collaboration and experimentation. For proof, look no further than PinkPantheress, another RADAR artist who skyrocketed from social media buzz to bona fide pop stardom in 2021. Her ability to seamlessly meld dance and pop sounds into something all her own led one editor to describe her as a “genre chameleon.” PinkPantheress’ genre-bending sensibility aligns with that of artists like Grimes, who coined the term Ethereal to describe her own unique sound. It also inspired Spotify’s editors to create the Ethereal playlist, which explores the different ways rock, pop, and electronic intersect.

The indie community is also drawn to those artists who defy convention at every twist and turn. That includes Shamir, whose influences can jump between house, country, and industrial, and whose music often touches on gender, sexuality, and their experience as a Black, non-binary individual.

But more than indie just pulling inspiration from other genres, a lot of its versatility comes from the stylistic approaches of artists. While Caroline Polachek blurs the lines between indie and Top 40 pop, an artist such as Mitski often takes a more conceptual approach to her songs, with lyrics that have a theatrical vibe to them.

Global fans, local influences

This variety serves as a driving force behind playlists such as POLLEN, which provides a snapshot of the many different ways indie artists are playing between the lines. Our editors say that indie is less about a specific sound or location, and more about a feeling that fans identify with—but that doesn’t mean indie lacks a sense of place.

For indie artists around the globe, the local sounds still serve as an important influence. Belarus’s Molchat Doma rode the hype around post-punk and synthwave inspired by the ’80s, which is captured in a new playlist called Insomnia. Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo, meanwhile, merges electro and cumbia with indie to create an unmistakably tropical sound. Including artists such as Mdou Moctar and Altin Gün, the playlist Folk Fabrique encapsulates  indie’s mix of traditional sounds from across the globe. 

Our editors expect indie will continue to become more representative of the different sounds and perspectives that are bubbling up from emerging artists. But at the same time, they believe that indie is getting back to its roots and embracing the underground, nonconformist mentality that gave birth to the genre. Instead of big-budget productions, we expect artists to embrace more of the lo-fi, DIY sounds that we’ve heard in eras past.

Perhaps, going forward, artists will get more of the spotlight they deserve because the emphasis will be put on the music—and not the production values.

Want to discover even more of the voices taking over indie in 2022? Be sure to check out some of our editors’ picks for the hottest playlists: Outliers, not just a phase, and melomania.