R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe. Liner notes from some of the band's albums list attorney Bertis Downs and manager Jefferson Holt as non-musical members. One of the first alternative rock bands, R.E.M. was noted for Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style; Stipe's distinctive vocal quality, unique stage presence, and obscure lyrics; Mills's melodic basslines and backing vocals; and Berry's tight, economical drumming style. In the early 1990s, other alternative rock acts such as Nirvana and Pavement viewed R.E.M. as a pioneer of the genre. After Berry left the band in 1997, the band continued its career in the 2000s with mixed critical and commercial success. The band broke up amicably in 2011 with members devoting time on solo projects after having sold more than 90 million albums worldwide and becoming one of the world's best-selling music artists.
R.E.M. released its first single, "Radio Free Europe", in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. It was followed by the Chronic Town EP in 1982, the band's first release on I.R.S. Records. In 1983, the group released its critically acclaimed debut album, Murmur, and built its reputation over the next few years through releases every year from 1984 to 1988: Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant, Document and Green, including an intermittent b-side compilation Dead Letter Office. With constant touring, and the support of college radio following years of underground success, R.E.M. achieved a mainstream hit with the 1987 single "The One I Love". The group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988, and began to espouse political and environmental concerns while playing large arenas worldwide.
R.E.M.'s most commercially successful albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), put it in the vanguard of alternative rock just as it was becoming mainstream. Out of Time received seven nominations at the 34th Annual Grammy Awards, and lead single "Losing My Religion", was R.E.M.'s highest-charting and best-selling hit. R.E.M.'s 1994 album Monster continued its run of success. The band began its first tour in six years to support the album; the tour was marred by medical emergencies suffered by three of the band members. In 1996, R.E.M. re-signed with Warner Bros. for a reported US$80 million, at the time the most expensive recording contract ever. The tour was productive and the band recorded the following album mostly during soundchecks. The resulting record, New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), is hailed as the band's last great album and the members' favorite, growing in cult status over the years. Berry left the band the following year, and Stipe, Buck, and Mills continued as a trio.
After the electronic experimental direction of Up (1998) that was commercially unsuccessful, Reveal (2001) was referred to as "a conscious return to their classic sound" which received general acclaim. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in its first year of eligibility. In order to "redeem themselves" after the lukewarm reception of Around the Sun (2004), the band released the well-received albums Accelerate (2008) and Collapse into Now (2011). R.E.M. disbanded amicably in September 2011, with former members having continued with various musical projects, and several live and archival albums have been released.