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The Great Mystery of Genres

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@john recently posted about "ALT - ish" music ... which got me thinking, yet again, about the great unsolved mystery of music genres.


In my teens, there were about 10 'genres' that covered everything one was ever likely to hear on the radio.  When I submitted my first songs to competitions in the early 2000's, the commonest comment I received was one of "wrong genre".  Even today, on forms (e.g. like CD-Baby, when having to categorise a new release), I often don't even SEE a category that best fits.


So today I Google'd "music genres list" and, guess what, no-one agrees.


For your edification and delight, here are some of the lists ... useful in that they at least proffer some examples!!





Each category is accompanied by a Spotify Playlist.

•    Pop
•    Dance / EDM (Electronic Dance Music)
•    Hip-hop and Rap
•    R&B
•    Latin
•    Rock
•    Metal
•    Country
•    Folk / Acoustic
•    Classical
•    Jazz
•    Blues
•    Easy Listening
•    New Age
•    World / Traditional Folk


When expanded, the above list shows almost 500 sub-genres!!




List 75 main genres. with one audio example of each.



3. Music Industry How To

67 Main Music Styles, each one with:

•    one music example, and

•    several major artists




This is merely to highlight the lack of logic regarding 'genre', and thus trying to write to a genre 'formula' ... no one agrees on the formula!


I've always preferred just using the term 'music' and then, and only if required for clarification,  'sounds like' a particular artist/song.



Feel free to weigh in but I don't have the knowledge or conviction to respond. :) 



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To me, genres are basically "a marketing distinction."  Nothing more or less.  They are a set of shoeboxes into which you can fit whatever shoe comes along ... whether or not it actually fits ... so that you can maybe succeed in selling those shoes.


On the one hand, commercial music is a "mass-marketing business," which depends on a steady supply of "product."  (Think: "McDonald's and hamburgers.")  But on the other hand, it is always starving for innovation.  Which sometimes begins a brand new "genre."


I'm reminded of early Peanuts cartoons, in which Lucy tells Schroeder: "Did you know that Beethoven now comes in spray cans?"  Which she then proceeds to demonstrate ... spraying authentic (of course ... Schulz was a perfectionist ...) musical notes all over his piano.

Edited by MikeRobinson
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  • 1 month later...
  • Noob

Personally, if I’m unsure what the specific genre is of a song, I just call it “alternative” lol. It’s a big enough umbrella to cover the obscure stuff.

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I started making mashups because I liked that they broke down the barriers of genres and showed that at the songwriting level there's less difference than some people like to think. So my mashups were rock vs pop, because as much as rock fans like to think it sits above pop, as I once did, all the most popular rock has pop hooks. XTC's Mayor of Simpleton has 2.4m YouTube views. It's full of pop hooks, a clever love song about not being clever, and it even manages to squeeze in a diminished chord. Travels in Nihilon, their dig at the fashions and frivolity of the music biz, has 27K views. I can listen to both but to my mind the pop hooks were much harder to do than the indulgence of Travels.


A few years ago I did a seach for kpop, just looking for something new to mash. Despite my often tiresome defence of pop, I still had preconceptions of what kpop was as a genre, which were quickly smashed. There was some interesting songwriting, arrangements and production going on, which wasn't the cutesy bubblegum or Gangnam Style EDM I expected. There were jazzier extended chords and there were drumless piano sections that were more prog rock than pop. It slowly became my niche, as YouTube delivered more of it to my suggestions page. I'll make an all-kpop mashup but I'm always trying to mash it with rock, or western pop, or old disco, anything where there's a contrast I can break down to merge together, because behind the genres, it's all about the hook.

Edited by Glammerocity
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