Bands are considered indie if they are independent label and make almost no money at all.
Kids generally call themselves indie when they shop at thrift stores. After their escapades in the thrift store, they then buy thousand-dollar Nikon cameras and a polaroid. They take loads of pictures from strange angles, take pointless pictures (such as shoes), and take provocative pictures (but to them, it's not provocative - it's indie).
These people then bitch to normal people about how 'normal' is overrated and that listening to mainstream music shows that you have no individuality.
Apparently, the only way to be an individual is to buy cheap-ass clothes that have been worn by who knows how many people, waste your time and money, and preach to others.
John: Dynamite by Taio Cruz - man this shit has a sick beat.
Indie Guy: Wow. Way to completely turn over your individual soul and personality to the corporate music industry. Find mental maturity through real music by bands that nobody knows.
John: Dude. Shut up.
Indie Guy: I'm gonna go take some pictures of some stupid shit like dirt now.
John: Stupid ass indie kid.
History: grew out from 60s garage, 70s punk, and 80s post punk it started in the mid 80s as alternative/college radio music. Once nirvana hit big the alternative genre split: the popular side was just alternative(Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, No Doubt, etc.) and the other half that wasn't mainstream(by choice or not) became indie rock(Pavement, Sebadoh, Built To Spill, etc).
Some bands have signed to major labels but are still considered indie(Modest Mouse, etc.). Go figure.
Sound: In the begining indie sounded like alternative(because it was) but it grew more experimental and weird. In Britain indie has more of a typical sound like Radiohead, Muse, etc. rather than a definition based on 'the scene.'
The scene: if you really think all indie kids do is try to be cooler than other people then... well.. you're mostly right. The main point is, don't take the scene and the whole hipster attitude seriously. No one does. And if you do, well, then I'm cooler than you.
the state of being "indie":
1)being unable to talk to anyone about your music.
2)but knowing that, in the process, you're way cooler than the kids you try to talk to about it.
(Examples of Indie music)
80's- Joy Division, Sonic Youth, The Smiths
90's- Pavement, Radiohead, The Pixies, Happy Mondays (Are they considered dance music or indie rock?).
Now- The Shins, Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie/The Postal Service, Rilo Kelly, Modest Mouse.
Confused FYE Employee- "Uhh, no. We do have a wall of My Chemical Romance albums on the wall behind you".
Indie Kid- "Fuck"
Although this definition is accurate, the word has come to mean more. For many, it has come to symbolize originality and forward-thinking, especially in music and design.
By this definition, indie is any business or designer that is not associated with a large company. Indie can also define the consumer who chooses to support small business, independent record labels and handmade items rather than shopping at big-box stores.