Romanticize or not, we had indie artists in the 1990s.
And we still do. In fact, I'd say that culture is even friendlier to Indie artists now more than it was in the 90's. You could in fact say that the indie artist was the underground, and now indie labels have popped up everywhere, and it's generally more accepted than it's ever been. With these labels, it's often indie artists helping indie artists, often producing music and expressing themselves musically in ways that don't generally appear in the mainstream. There's a lot to like out there if you look for it. In general, mainstream will only ever scrape the surface of what's out there.