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Thinking about genres

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Thinking about genres

Postby MarkOne » Fri Apr 30, 2021 9:05 am

I would be really interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this one.

I guess it's not unusual to come across people with pretty eclectic tastes in music, I would probably count myself in there number, I was going through my iTunes library, my CDs and vinyl and there is all sorts of stuff I've bought and enjoyed (Still do), just a small random sample would include classical, progressive metal, jazz, a lot of prog rock, some mainstream pop, 80s synth pop, well, you get the idea. So as a consumer of music it's not seen as strange to cast your net wide into the ocean of musical genres.

But when you start to think about artists the same can't be said. When someone does stray from their genre it seems to be frowned on, or even is met with hostility.

The reason this comes to mind its that this year I've set myself a challenge to write, record and release a song every month, and I am starting to find myself meandering genre wise. (in fact I'm not even sure I can pigeonhole some. of this)

The challenge is invigorating. It means there is pressure to come up with a new idea each month, and actually get something release ready, I have been in something of a musical hiatus for a long while now and these deadlines have kindled in me some very interesting ideas - I recommend it. However, I would really be interested in other peoples thoughts about artists and genres.
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Re: Thinking about genres

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Apr 30, 2021 9:14 am

Most musicians I know would rather cite individual musicians as inspiration and often this is connected to specific pieces of music. They look for systems within the musical structure and technique.

Music listeners also connect with individual artists and performances but, as they are once removed from the process they look for patterns between pieces of music and define categories where they see patterns.

Music journalists discuss and comment on the taxonomy and the characters involved.

I, like everyone else, am all of these people some of the time. Genres are part of the taxonomy and only exist insofar as they have meaning for you or you find them useful.
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Re: Thinking about genres

Postby BigRedX » Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:31 am

Having started off by saying that my music was unclassifiable and being proud of that fact, I've come to discover that aligning yourself with one or more genres can be a very beneficial thing when it comes to attracting new listeners.

I've always found it easier to start a new musical project with a new name if I have wanted to move to a different genre.

Also the genres that you might identify with may not be the same as the one's your listeners identify you with. My most successful band - The Terrortones - fitted into several genres, notably 60s Garage Rock, 70s Punk, Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Goth and Horror Punk, but the one that most of our audience seemed to come from - Psychobilly - was the one that I unidentified with the least out of all of them.
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Re: Thinking about genres

Postby RichardT » Fri Apr 30, 2021 12:09 pm

I tend to write in different genres too. As I’m a newbie to releasing material, I thought about having different artist names for different genres. In the end I decided to split into two - I didn’t think any more would be manageable. There’s quite a lot of admin to do per artist name if you’re planning to release your music to streaming and promote it.

So jazz will have one artist name, although I haven’t released any of that material yet, and everything else another. This means the non-jazz music artist is quite broad in style. I’m not completely comfortable with that - with the benefit of hindsight I might created three artist names instead of two.

I hope that helps!
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Re: Thinking about genres

Postby CS70 » Fri Apr 30, 2021 2:28 pm

MarkOne wrote:I would be really interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this one.

I guess it's not unusual to come across people with pretty eclectic tastes in music, I would probably count myself in there number, I was going through my iTunes library, my CDs and vinyl and there is all sorts of stuff I've bought and enjoyed (Still do), just a small random sample would include classical, progressive metal, jazz, a lot of prog rock, some mainstream pop, 80s synth pop, well, you get the idea. So as a consumer of music it's not seen as strange to cast your net wide into the ocean of musical genres.

But when you start to think about artists the same can't be said. When someone does stray from their genre it seems to be frowned on, or even is met with hostility.


I've evolved my thinking a bit over the years on this. From your point of view as an artist, it's a matter of course: limitations are artificial and you've gotta do what you've gotta do (or like). That's why we start to be artists in the first place - the sheer joy of creation and the satisfaction of communicating emotions to other people. So far it's about you, that's it.

But from a commercial and audience-growing perspective (selling-stream-or-get-audiences-to-gigs) point of view, focusing on a genre is a smart move, especially at start: it makes you more understandable by an audience, critics and business operators alike - none of whom usually want to spend time with complications (today and in the past alike). You need to build a brand, and building a brand usually entails be seen to be doing something good in a quite focused area and for quite a long time.

A few acts managed, in the past, to evolve and change musically to a great degree, together with their fans. But not many - it usually started with both them (and their fans) very, very young, and they often made use of a good crisis (like a band breakup) to shot in a different musical direction.. but even that direction will likely be relatively consistent if they need the money. And these fans were usually gathered by exploiting originality and variations within a more or less definable genre. Ritchie Blackmore can do Blackmore nights' because he made a ton of money with Purple sales (and still does) so if he retains also 1/100th of the audience he doesnt have to sell the house.

If right now you are cringing about the use of the words "product" and "brand" together with the word "music" (I do) it's because we both think that the commercial perspective is not as fun as just making music. Most artists do, otherwise we would be salesmen or work with banking!

Everybody finds their own balance, and you don't have to have a commercial perspective, or a narrow artistic one.. but I often hear people complaining they don't have an audience (or declaring they would like grow one) and then say that they don't make music to make money... when these to go hand in hand, they are just different aspect of the same thing.

So there you are. Irrelevant for you, may be relevant for an audience, but it doesn't mean you have to be unoriginal or narrow...
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Re: Thinking about genres

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Apr 30, 2021 2:38 pm

Genres are a mixed blessing, stuff I like usually falls, broadly, into the blues, prog, folk, jazz & county genres and I'm not usually much enamoured of the heavier styles of rock nor of most pop music. But once you start getting into sub genres and crossover styles all bets are off (I like Toto and Yes but not a fan of Steve Vai or Dream Theatre for example).
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