You may have noticed that [tag]Alternative[/tag] is one of the most popular tags at last.fm. Also, you may have seen the proud display of Alternative Music at your local record store as well as a rich collection of Alternative Artists and labels at the iTunes store or many online music stores.
Alternative, since the early advent of [tag]grunge[/tag] (due to the mainstream success of [artist]Nirvana[/artist], [artist]Alice in Chains[/artist], [artist]Crash Test Dummies[/artist], [artist]Stone Temple Pilots[/artist] and [artist]Soundgarden[/artist]), has meant a rebellious attitude towards and a different path from mainstream [tag]pop[/tag] and [tag]rock pop[/tag], an escape from the apparent emptiness of canned entertainment and a channel of expression for young artists.
And then, after some years in the spotlight, the [tag]post grunge[/tag] sound of [artist]Matchbox Twenty[/artist], [artist]Bush[/artist] and [artist]Marcy's Playground[/artist], as well as the [tag]Britpop[/tag] tunes of [artist]Oasis[/artist] and [artist]The Cardigans[/artist] would change the panorama once again, while [artist]Radiohead[/artist], [artist]Nine Inch Nails[/artist], [artist]Tool[/artist] and others would strive while letting their music feed from [tag]electronic[/tag], [tag]industrial[/tag] and [tag]gothic rock[/tag], the sensibilities of [tag]shock rock[/tag] would return in the persona of [artist]Marilyn Manson[/artist], [artist]David Bowie[/artist] would nurture from the new sounds to create some kind of industrial glam operatic oeuvre with [album artist=David Bowie]1.Outside[/album] and the kids who grew with Nirvana would form their own bands and try to find a new sound, resulting in [tag]nü metal[/tag], [tag]metalcore[/tag], [tag]happy punk[/tag], [tag]emo[/tag] (sorry, [tag]post hardcore[/tag])
Which brings me to the next point, what do all those names I brought up have in common, if they have anything in common at all?
They are all tagged as 'Alternative'
So, in someone's list [artist]Slipknot[/artist], [artist]Placebo[/artist] and [artist]Evanescence[/artist] have the same tag, despite they have nothing in common, no common influences, no common themes, no common musical traits, "Alternative" has simply become a shelf where to dump sounds that do not belong in the other shelves. Introduce me to two people who like alternative and it's almost certain they won't like the same bands, do the experiment, try the two top listeners of the Alternative tag and see their charts, evaluate their compatibility (some applets can do that) and you will see they do not listen to the same sounds.
By contrast; try [tag]Drum and Bass[/tag] or [tag]Surf[/tag], groups under those tags have sounds, attitudes, influences and themes in common.
Tags should help you to find sounds that please you. If a tag encompasses too many different sounds it stops being useful, it becomes hit and miss. If I wanted to try a new sound based on my newfound appreciation of [artist]The Bloodhound Gang[/artist] I would be sadly disappointed if my next recommendation is [tag]Creed[/tag].
Tag your artists properly, search the Wikipedia, try the secondary tags, look a little into the band's history, create your own tags (which sounds do you think would make good [tag]ninja tunes[/tag]? )you will learn a little bit more about the music you like and you will greatly help others.