Genres and the new Meta Data

Here’s the thing that is really getting my goat. Genres.It’s a hot topic for me as very recently I have had to enter into this little world of partitioning where you have to describe you and your whole body of current and future work under a genre….

Am I folk, pop, world, electronic, punk, or alternative? a mixture?

I started to think that it was maybe Alternative World Fusion (not that this exists in any music search engines) but then I thought that sounded w*nk and didn’t allow me to do a 30 second punk track with guitars or did it?

The genres thing just doesn’t work for me in the same way that I’m not always in one mood. Imagine signing up to a personal site and it asked you to classify yourself as happy OR sad OR agressive OR optomistic OR quirky and that description stuck with you and was pushed as your ‘flavour’. Madness huh? You feel differently depending on the day and who you are with. It’s the same with music…it’s a moving target and like you – not easily pigeonholed.

Most bands choose a genre like a gang or a badge….even bands that reject the whole genre thing are hoovered up into an industry obsessed with and built on it. There are conversations in backrooms on how to spend the bands money on them becoming the next X or how the new album the band have released is a different genre and therefore a commerical risk….(btw those record company contracts all have the clause “the band must deliver commercially acceptable masters”and that really means the record company can reject or change your music as it isn’t sellable under their interpratation of the market….they can do what they want.)

Sonia Livingstone argues thatDifferent genres specify different ‘contracts’ to be negotiated between the text and the reader… which set up expectations on each side for the form of the communication”. The only expectation I have of my listeners is that they will just listen to the sound coming out of the speakers and let the music take them …I don’t want them psychologically ‘prepped’ or expecting something specific….

Okay – so how to fix this polava or at least get some changes?

Songs have Genres artists don’t
I think that it’s the songs that should have the genre applied if anything not the artist. I’d be a little happpier to classify a song as having a certain mood rather than myself. That said, some artists do the same stuff all the time so this wouldn’t matter to them….yes I am being bitchy on that..

A different entry point to music other than ‘Genre’
Freak the metadata and allow people to access the music through different ‘angles’….instead of punters identifying their ‘consumer type’ from the familiar pick-list of genres such as rock, country etc.. Meta-data is data about data. So if my song is the data then all the keywords and descrptions associated with it are meta-data. Anything can be metadata. The instruments used, the location recorded, the tempo, a mood, the colour of shoes the singer was wearing when they did the song etc..

My imagined searches for new music might include :
All tracks that use harp and electric guitar together.
Songs that have movie dialogue samples.
All tracks made in someones bedroom.
All the tracks that have the word ‘cider’ in it.
Tracks that are under 30 seconds long.
Artists who don’t have any songs with the word ‘love’ in it.
Acoustic instruments only
Songs by their key

If we are going to label and categorise things more intelligently then let’s make sure we have lots of good data provided by the artists and not the middle men slapping a single descriptor on us. The technology is there for this to happen – Google/AI/fuzzy logic/automated song entry systems in the music industry….the reason the will is lacking is because the record companies use this framework of genres to ‘manage’ not only artists but consumers.

The genre thing is the big record labels speak. It’s the analysts. It’s the marketeers. It’s not the musicians. They say it’s there to help you – I say it hinders you boxes you in and propogates a ‘copying culture’.

History although you can’t stick petrol in it or a saddle on it is an efficient beast none the less. History does not ‘store’ copies very well in it’s books and indexes. The alphabet doesn’t have two letter f’s – it’s just inefficient and would be a duplicate. I think the genre thing at root is based on the concept of copying and reusing templates and my point is this – copies don’t survive history very well. Just be careful what game your playing . . .

Drongomala
p.s. my most disliked category is Ethnic…

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