Thanks Mike- I actually did Google it before posting to see if I was missing something obvious. The thing is unsigned soloists, duos and small groups playing non mainstream music (at the time) goes way back. And of course they didn’t start out being signed to some label. So perhaps it’s just a newer term for the same old thing? It almost sounds like Indie is today’s term for what my parents referred to as beatnik musicians, those that played small clubs doing their own material and not making a whole lot of money.
Also what about the more successful artist like St Vincent and Arctic Monkeys? Do they lose the Indie label after a certain amount of exposure/success?