Genres are a mess and no one knows what to do about it

freewave

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Its simple. Genres are a marketing tool now.

Genres have ALWAYS been a marketing tool. For artists, labels, music journalists, etc. If you aren't part of a new genre you likely aren't part of a new chapter of music history either. This is all musical darwinism anyway. As soon as something becomes stale it must evolve, get newer attributes, a new genre or style name and people who actively take up this music as well. If you don't it becomes stale and dies out. There are plenty of dead genres like ambient house, dutch trancecore, and acid house which don't really exist anymore and that's just how music is, especially electronic.
 

freewave

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Anyway I think our genre project tries the hardest to keep up with genres and the ones that "exist". It ties in with rateyourmusic which is the only database that has been ahead of the curve in recognizing genres, allowing its users to vote on what is and isn't a genre, and then recognizing what are the top releases for a genre. Not to mention a ton of great music lists. RYM is definitely not perfect and its got a small electronic fanbase which means it has a lot of ground to make up when it comes to adding artists, labels, and rating and genre votes to the electronic side but its catching up. Discogs has a much better database for electronic releases but a lot more older fans and to me lacks a useful genre system, misses out on digital releases, and an out of date community system. If you could squish the two databases together you'd have one fantastic one rather than 2 good but somewhat incomplete sites.

 
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Recharge

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To be fair, it's very true. I've been reworking one of my older songs which is supposedly melodic house & techno, It was to some degree with a bit of trance influence. But after adding some pads and more details it sounds like 100% trance, from the dreamy pads, to the bassline. Yet if I called it trance, I know it will do worst than if I leave it as melodic house & techno labeled.

https://soundcloud.com/lq5vxcb1rzbn%2Fdj-recharge-rhythm-of-life
 

Spacetime

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Maybe some here do not consider an issue to exist, but I beg to differ. Genres are important because they helped me go to Trance nights instead of Hardcore nights in the 00's. I found this forum using genre searches and when I search for music online I use genres as an anchor point.

They let us judge the art in its context. When I watch a film labelled horror I know that suspense, tension and fear is part of the experience and we can judge it within that framework. If a comedy fails to make me laugh it fails. If an action movie has great momentum and energy it succeeds. Genres are very useful, this is why we have them for every single object in life.

We don't let anyone who chooses to write a book create a genre just because they decided to do something weird with whatever foundations they build upon. If we allowed that we would have 1000's of book genres, just like music is doing.. We understand that's not right. But now, because the labels and the music publications have lost their authority it has become a free for all, with the role landing in the lap of the music software companies. These people care about profit, not history or accuracy. It only spells bad things for music.
 

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Thats a great point about how the now rule-writers of genres have become the music tech companies. It's like either random nobodies on the internet or huge corporate entities, both of which a largely clueless about the whole thing.

I wonder if in 100 years it will be decided upon that the starting period of electronic music deserves its own official 'era', distinguishing it from what is currently labelled as 20th century music. In that sense, the last 40 years becomes a "genre", lets say 1985-20(??) becoming the 'Electronic era'.

Screen Shot 2021-12-18 at 7.43.36 PM.png


The Baroque period was separated into early, middle and late. Maybe the same should happen for the electronic era, and the 'genre mess' we are perceiving now is the result of being in the late stage, where identity is being lost through the blurring of influence and move towards something else. After-all pop music uses all sorts of electronic sounds and formats. True rock as well ceases to exist, and more likely to find hybrid stuff. Electronic doesn't really exist as a clear separate entity anymore.

Maybe we'll end up having categories such as Classic Prog-House, Mid Year-Prog House and Late Stage Prog-House. The former already exists in our terminology and the latter reflects that blurring pretty well, where prog-house has no identity at the moment, kind of sounding like techno sometimes, slow house, maybe trance like.
 
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dmgtz96

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hol' up, are you all concerned that Ableton, Serato, etc. will define the genres of music in the future? Or are you thinking more like Beatport, Spotify, Bandcamp?
I don't see why Ableton or Serato would even have a stake here.
 

Hensmon

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I don't see why Ableton or Serato would even have a stake here.

No not them, as mentioned in previous post we see Spotify taking on the role of genre creators, with arbitrary/non-sensical trigger happy approaches. Beatport also confused the hell out of everyone with Progressive House, among others and Bandcamp kind of takes hands off stance.

Discogs probably does it the best, allowing for multiple genre tags on a release and album, and you always have the year as a reference.
 
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freewave

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Maybe some here do not consider an issue to exist, but I beg to differ. Genres are important because they helped me go to Trance nights instead of Hardcore nights in the 00's. I found this forum using genre searches and when I search for music online I use genres as an anchor point.

They let us judge the art in its context. When I watch a film labelled horror I know that suspense, tension and fear is part of the experience and we can judge it within that framework. If a comedy fails to make me laugh it fails. If an action movie has great momentum and energy it succeeds. Genres are very useful, this is why we have them for every single object in life.

We don't let anyone who chooses to write a book create a genre just because they decided to do something weird with whatever foundations they build upon. If we allowed that we would have 1000's of book genres, just like music is doing.. We understand that's not right. But now, because the labels and the music publications have lost their authority it has become a free for all, with the role landing in the lap of the music software companies. These people care about profit, not history or accuracy. It only spells bad things for music.

Great post and I agree completely that genres are vitally important. I have some issues with SOME of your last part. There's not a demand for thousands of people creating genres in books although that is exactly how Krautrock really came to be (thanks to Julian Cope giving it a name and more defined history through his book). Zolo (dj Terry Sharkie) is another example of someone creating a term and making it almost a religion (but as a genre of course). There's frankly very few books that go through this approach as there's just no audience to buy them (glad Japanese Nerdcore is an exception) . Even Simon Reynolds gave up the last decade and wrote just about history re-repeating vs I think trying to keep cataloging newer genres (which isn't wrong, there's just a load of revivals in the last decades). Books are dead, but websites are where any hope lies for this and generally not from media organizations (who are now often late to the party or ignoring the newest microgenres).

There are genre-heads like Ishkur who give SOME new names to unnamed trends that happened. Such as 8th Note Prog, McProg / Twinkle Prog, Minimal Prog. But then again he spends time on terms like Freeland Breaks that aren't really movements and spends way too much time talking badly about all the music and countries he dislikes and adding comedy to his commentary rather than being a more professional authority on genres. But most of his terms came from prior discussion on forums and boards first. I've done a few like Hauntology and Hypnagogic Pop when they were loose terms from articles but then caught on more over time.

There are places like RateYourMusic that really DO the best efforts on keeping up with genres and adding them to their databases, by getting sufficient sources and write ups to add new ones and a majority vote to do so. While they've always lagged behind on electronic Dance Music for their database and ratings they at least make up for it with actual genre reflections (unlike discogs that often tags genres wrong on releases wrong and uses the most basic oldhead terms) I'm still always come across new terms IN USE that i was completely unaware of. Likewise there are people there who create lists on new happenings that show what terms might be in use, what they are like, and what fits there. Many of these are newer and with names that haven't settled yet. Playlists, mixes, and terms can be given on Youtube, Spotify, and Reddit WAY before some online media writer picks up on it. I'm still amazed that an era of music like Stomp Rock or Heartland Indie doesn't have enough of an official name yet despite having a clear history out in the open. Ultimately the only way for genre terms to catch on is enough of a megaphone or for people to eventually adopt A term in regular usage that its "accepted".
 
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