Alternative is an umbrella term that refers to an age of music spanning from the late-1980s to the mid-1990s. Yahoo music has a station devoted to '80s alternative, but these bands were not considered alternative in their day. Groups of this particular type had a following, but were often ignored for more established, money-making pop artists. Yet, some of them, such as the now-famous R.E.M. were given their first glimmers of fame on MTV.
It’s hard to explain why independent artists suddenly got discovered during the early nineties. Many attribute the alternative era to Nirvana and the runaway hit 'Smells like Teen Spirit', but this is more of a grunge song. It is quite possible that fans were tired of the pop artists who dominated the eighties, and liked the sound of the many eighties 'one-hit wonder' bands. Groups like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers had moderate success in the eighties, before being suddenly catapulted into stardom.
Since this paradigm shift caused most of the alternative music to become mainstream, it is difficult to classify what was true pop during the early nineties. It was a good time for many independent record companies, as fans began to question whether or not the major labels were truly marketing the best music. Many alternative artists gained more than their fifteen minutes of fame, but despised the spotlight, focusing on artistry rather than fame.
Alternative was as much of a culture as it was a musical movement. It changed the fashions from eighties pastel to earth tones. At this time, there was a new emphasis on Generation X, and it was believed that alternative music was the music of the Gen-X generation like the rock of the 60’s was for the Baby Boomers. While the alternative era may have declined with the rise of pop artists of the late nineties, its influence still exists.