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Is there some way to describe something that the average person doesn't know about but is still not obscure? Such as a musician who doesn't get much radio play but still has thousands or even millions of fans, or how an independent movie that does well at a festival like Sundance but doesn't get a major release.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Unconventional. – Unrelated Aug 29 '16 at 21:46
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    FWIW, an independent movie that does well at a festival like Sundance but doesn't get a major release is generally considered obscure – slebetman Aug 30 '16 at 2:43
  • In the minor leagues, second tier, in the background, regional, up-and-coming, journeyman, hiding out in the open, part of the (genre) scene... – user662852 Aug 30 '16 at 14:11
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    Another way of expressing this that doesn't use a single word is to say: "not unheard of". – called2voyage Aug 30 '16 at 15:40
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    This genre is called Alternative. – TylerH Aug 31 '16 at 3:43

12 Answers 12

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Niche

(Adjective). Denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population:

  • other companies in this space had to adapt to being niche players
  • a niche show that ran on late-night television
  • the video game industry is no longer niche.

Oxford Dictionary

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    That's the word that popped into my head. +1 – Richard Kayser Aug 29 '16 at 2:50
13

Recondite:

Of a subject or knowledge - little known by the layman or in the mainstream of received wisdom or knowledge. (Oxford Dictionary)

One might write, for example, that intellectual property law (patents, trademarks & copyrights) is a recondite subject matter for many lawyers.

In the alternative, I propose the word fringe

Fringe:

adjective, not part of the mainstream. (Oxford Dictionary)

So, one might say, for example, that the little known playwright has had his work performed to fringe audiences Off-Broadway and at fringe gatherings at the Edinburgh Festival.

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    I like this because it's a word that is an example of itself. – jorfus Aug 31 '16 at 0:03
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Alternative is a possibility. While it can be somewhat vague and may or may not fit the questioner's needs depending on the context, it is often used to describe an option that's not the most common one but may nonetheless be well known, as in "alternative music" or "alternative medicine".

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    Of all the answers, this is the one that most correctly answers the question. – R Mac Aug 30 '16 at 15:58
12

Underground

ODO

ADJECTIVE

  • Of or denoting a group or movement seeking to explore alternative forms of lifestyle or artistic expression; radical and experimental:
    the New York underground art scene
    wikipedia: Underground Music

Underground can be applied to many forms of media, in contrast to more specific terms such as

  • avant-garde art
  • experimental , "experimental jazz"
  • alternate , "alt rock"
  • independent - the connotation is more about how it is funded than its popularity, but non-mainstream funding usually implies non-mainstream popularity
9

Indie

1: one that is independent; especially : an unaffiliated record or motion-picture production company
2: something (as a record or film) produced by an indie

"Indie." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

7

Cult may be suitable:

[USUALLY AS MODIFIER] A person or thing that is popular or fashionable, especially among a particular section of society:
'a cult film'

  • 'It did remarkably well at the box office, and garnered a strong cult following among college-age Americans.'
  • 'The company's ads have gained a cult following among advertisers and laymen alike.'

(Oxford Dictionaries)

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    Welcome to EL&U. As cult has a number of connotations, this answer would be greatly improved if you could provide an explanation and examples of how to use this term, including a dictionary definition or other suitable references. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Aug 29 '16 at 14:45
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    As choster said, it's encouraged to back up your posts with references such as quotations from dictionaries. This makes your post more convincing and helps explain the meaning of the suggested word or phrase. I edited your post to add a quotation from Oxford Dictionaries; if you don't like the changes I made, you can always edit your own post to replace this with another quotation you like better. – sumelic Aug 29 '16 at 17:04
  • This is the best answer, IMO. – Casey Aug 30 '16 at 2:26
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Esoteric

Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest: esoteric philosophical debates - Oxford Dictionary

Differs from niche, which applies to products, services, or interests. Esoteric implies competence with the subject.

4

Peripheral

of secondary or minor importance; marginal

Marginal

of, relating to, or situated at the edge or margin of something

Oxford, 2010

3

Consider unheralded.

Unheralded adjective Not previously announced, expected, or acclaimed From 'more examples': True, he is still no giant, but we have now been introduced to yet another previously unheralded ordinary man. - ODO

A herald is a type of announcer. The idea here is that the person you're describing isn't widely known because they are not announced to the world even though they may have a sizable following or are remarkable in some other way.

  • I took the OP to mean something that is widely known though not so widely admired. – Anton Sherwood Aug 30 '16 at 6:43
  • @AntonSherwood Thanks for your comment, though I disagree. The OP's context was "something that the average person doesn't know about" (emphasis mine), which doesn't suggest to me that it's all that widely known. – Lawrence Aug 30 '16 at 7:01
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I suggest subculture

group that has beliefs and behaviors that are different from the main groups within a culture or society

Subculture Definition (Merriam Webster)

1

You might try offbeat:

different from the ordinary, usual, or expected

M-W definition of offbeat

(I recall that Quantum Leap was always described as offbeat, but it seemed quite popular to me...)

0

Argotic:

  • belonging to the specialized terminology of a group.
  • jargon is close in meaning to argot but perhaps is less appealing in adjectival form.

(Dictionary.com)

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    We appreciate the desire to help, but please consider either expanding your answer or deleting it. Questions should be answered as an expert would answer them: comprehensively, with explanation and context. Explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Unsupported answers may be removed. (more¹) (more²) – MetaEd Aug 29 '16 at 23:25

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