Music genres are no longer a walled garden
“What music are you into?” is a increasingly hard question to answer. If you were to shuffle my saved songs on Spotify, you could go from a soppy mellow track by Daughter to a jump up Drum and Bass track by Macky Gee within a second. I love having a library that is hugely diverse and growing each day I discover a new track or artist.
The idea that one genre is the defining category of the music you listen to and enjoy is ludicrous to me. Genre has been seen as a walled garden for generations due to the way that music has been distributed and consumed in the pre-streaming world. For many of us, the way we first listened to music was to purchase physical single and albums on CD. Many of the decisions we made about what CD to buy were most likely based on the songs had been played on the radio or been on TV.
CDs were expensive at £10-£15 per album, so we had to pick a music style that we knew and liked to stick to in order to make sure we made the most of the money we had to spend on music. Thats why through my childhood I primarily listened to pop music. We also didn’t have the technologies such as the open web to allow us to explore music styles freely.
Enter streaming. For the same cost of one CD per month, services such as Spotify and Apple Music allows us to listen to any track by any artist of any style - unlimitedly. The walled garden of genre has fallen in the streaming world. Steaming allows us to freely explore different sounds and styles with no additional cost to listening to the music we listen to most often.
For me, my music choices are often motivated by mood and emotion. If i’m feeling rubbish I would probably listen to indie folk, whereas if i’m getting ready for a night out I would probably listen to house or drum and bass. Liquid drum and bass is perfect background music to listen to at my desk. Streaming has allowed me to explore styles of music based on emotion and also given me an open mind to different styles of music, never possible in the CD era. I describe this as fluid listening and this is why I find it so hard to answer the question “what music are you into?” because I have such a broad spectrum of styles I listen to.
It’s not just listeners that are hailing the breakdown of genre. Artists such as The 1975 and Billie Eilish have widely discussed the problems with genre definition. Both have explored multiple music styles through their records. Most notably, The 1975 recently released “People”, a punk rock track that is wildly different to their usual indie pop sound. I personally am not a fan of the track, but I still consider them as one of my favourite bands. I also admire that they have complete creative control to make whatever music they want to without the barriers of genre.
One thing is for sure, genre itself is not going anywhere. It will continue to categorise music in years to come, as it does with film, TV and literature. But, thanks to the introduction of streaming services, genre is something not to be limited by anymore.