Alternative rock (also called alternative music, alt rock or simply alternative) is a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s and became popular in the 1990s. Alternative rock consists of various subgenres that have emerged from the independent music scene since the 1980s, such as grunge, Britpop, gothic rock, indie pop, and indie rock. These genres are unified by their collective debt to the style or ethos of punk rock, which laid the groundwork for alternative music in the 1970s. At times, alternative rock has been used as a catch-all phrase for rock music from underground artists and all music descended from punk rock (including punk itself, New Wave, and post-punk).
Some examples of alternative rock bands that have achieved commercial success and mainstream critical recognition are Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Coldplay, The Smiths, The Cure, Jane's Addiction, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Oasis, Weezer, Radiohead, The White Stripes, and Muse. However, many alternative rock artists are cult acts that have recorded with independent labels and have received the majority of their exposure through college radio airplay and word-of-mouth.