Now, more than ever, it is important to correctly classify your music in order to get heard. But what does that look like?
To begin, let’s talk about the reasons that conventional concepts of genre are still important.
1. Why Does Genre Matter?
Music distributors require you to specify genres for your music so that stores and streaming services can put it in the right place. Blog submission tools like Submithub require this as well.
Sometimes, the only opportunity you get to classify your song’s genre is when you upload it. Distributors often
only give you the most basic, restrictive choices. It might feel arbitrary, but this is not a choice you want to take too lightly.
Very few musicians can truly claim to exist outside of genre. Even they have to classify their songs somehow. Here’s how you can figure yours out.
2. Finding Your Conventional Genre
For some, this is very easy. You like country music, you write country music, you call it country music. For others, it is not so simple. The phenomenon of bedroom producing has made it so artists can blend all their favorite influences into a single sound. This is great for creating a unique style, but it can be hard to know where your songs fit.Every artist has influences. Who are yours? What genre of music do they make?
Everynoise.com has a search bar tool where you can input any artist and it tells you all genres that apply to their music. Check out your influences. Do this same thing with artists with whom you share a sound. Where are the overlaps? Chances are these are a close enough approximation of your sound for distributors when you upload your music.
A shortfall of genre is that it can feel impersonal, maybe even outdated. Spotify has begun to address this with the option to classify or browse music by mood as well as genre. By doing this, they’re able to better suggest music to their listeners and get more artists heard by the right audiences. When you provide a release to them for playlist consideration using their Spotify for Artists tool, you can begin to specify these moods.
This is all great in the world of algorithms and charts, but music is deeply personal. Do the genres you land on not feel quite right? You’re not alone.
“I feel like [picking a genre] is an identity crisis for a lot of artists because you’re also supposed to be really unique. Everyone wants you to do something that’s never been done before, but genres are kind of limiting.”
–– Tyler Jenkins of Toxic Holiday, Wesleyan ‘22
3. Defining Your Sound for Yourself
One of the more important steps in getting folks to listen to your music is being able to answer the question “what kind of music do you make?” Knowing how to describe your sound accurately is key to marketing yourself. We’re all familiar with the archetypal dude who replies “uh, it’s really hard to say, we’re kinda genre-less,” when in reality his band just sounds like Radiohead.
No one wants to be that guy. No one wants to listen to that guy’s band.
Coin your own term. Give your sound a name. If someone asks you that question, have a unique answer.
“I make rattlesnake jazz” is a lot better than “it’s hard to pin down.” If you told me you make rattlesnake jazz, you can bet I’d listen to your song at least once. Bloggers will appreciate it, too.
Make sure your new genre name is true to you and conveys something about your sound. If you say you make “balloon-popping music,” but it’s actually death metal, the listener is likely going to be confused and disappointed.
For a little added inspiration, here are a few of our favorite genre names coined by bands on Quadio:
Broccoli Rock (Townies, Tulane/USC/Columbia), Sex-positive Synth Pop (Von, NYU), and Anarchy Pop (Honeyboys, Cal Poly).
Have fun with this! How you describe yourself is an extension of your artistic sensibilities, your taste, your brand. If a term doesn’t feel right, don’t use it. If you love your song, you should love how you describe it.
Genre can be restrictive, but it doesn’t have to be. You are an artist. So let that creativity extend to how you classify yourself.