I can already hear the echoes of “Oh this is clickbait” floating around the web.
No! This isn’t clickbait, anyone with the slightest bit of talent can make their own genre of music. The question is getting people to like it.
What is a genre?
Ok so let’s go back to basics.
Genres are simply a series of categories that aid in labelling certain styles of music. Most have been developed by either artists or journalists in order to satisfy the uncertainty of what sounds should be called.
In theory, music is music, and genres are just labels we attach to sounds in order to better describe them.
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Creating your genre
Here are the main components on how to develop a certain style of music into a trend:
- The sound
- The branding
- The name
That’s right, the same components that make a world class artist. When artists have coined a term for their own sound, they make it trendy through branding.
Nowadays, many subgenres are either a fusion of two different sounds (Grime, Hip Hop, Synthwave, Vaporwave). Or an adaptation of a genre that already exists (Dark techno, Trap, Mumble Rap)
However, mixing two sounds together isn’t a new thing, so it’s been done to death. A music critic will probably have a term for the sound that you have right now, which completely defeats the objective.
Essentially, to put your goal into a sentence, it would be: “To make a sound so amazing that even journalists can’t find a word for it”
Yes, this is difficult, which makes it even more helpful to know exactly how a music critic thinks and writes. (Find out more here)
The genres that last are the ones that have a new mixture component, something that leaves them saying “It’s a mixture of this, and this, but also something else that I can’t quite put my finger on.”
How to do this?
Listen… Listen… and listen.
Know your genre like the back of your hand. Know every sub-genre and all of their differences to gauge what’s innovative, and what isn’t.
Be experimental, but not too experimental. See every up and coming sound as an opportunity, chances are they haven’t surfaced onto music critics’ radars yet.
(Look at experimental music on Bandcamp)
Brainstorm like hell
Have a crazy fusion of ideas that might sound awesome? Produce it! Will it sound terrible? Probably.
But you might listen back to these tapes in a couple months time and gather so many ideas from them.
Know your audience
If you’re a Dark Techno producer, for example, know what your listeners love about the genre. Are there other types of music they enjoy? Can you incorporate some of those elements to make one awesome sound that they all love?
This takes experimenting, a lot of it! And a hell of a lot of feedback, which potentially may mean some trial and error. However, no one made a genre without screwing up a couple times.
Related article: 6 ways to impress music critics and to grow your fan base
If we look back in history to some of the most innovative genres in history, we can see the many sources of creativity that have led to their titles.
Some genres have commonly developed their names from song titles, for example, Ambient music was first coined by from Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978). Eskibeat, created by Wiley and Ruff Sqwad in 2004, originated from the Grime track “Eskimo” which featured these dark, urban-like synths that was relatively unheard of at the time.
Some lyrics have been responsible for some of the most influential musical movements in history.Hip Hop was said to originate from the words of DJ Lovebug Starski by rhyming “hip-hop, hippy to the hippy hop-bop” at early parties, telling Peter S Scholtes in 2006: “Me and Kid Cowboy from [Grandmaster Flash’s] the Furious Five used to say it together. I’d say the ‘hip’, he’d say the ‘hop’.”
Or, [My favourite] you could literally just make up a word and attach it to your sound. Kanye attempted to start a Pop Art movement with his album 808’s & Heartbreak. He said that “Either call it ‘pop’ or ‘pop art,’ either one I’m good with,” to accompany the visual art movement displayed on the cover.
So as you can see, there are various sources of creativity when it comes to finding a name for your sound.
However, if you really want your music to be put to the test, don’t name it. See if your listeners come up with a name for it. Journalists have most notably done this for R&B, Heavy Metal, Punk Rock and Trip Hop
This is generally what makes a sound into a movement.
Because anyone can make a genre, right? But making one that’ll get people talking for years to come is challenging. I mean, the lifespan of Tech Death Metal or Jungle Pussy Punk Rock was probably no more than a couple weeks.
Let me ask you a couple questions:
What genre does red yellow and green remind you of?
(Answer: That Bob Marley genre)
What if Elvis wasn’t cool?
(Answer: Then there would’ve been no reason to follow Rock and Roll)
Why is Vaporwave gaining so much traction?
(Answer: Because the visuals, the aesthetic and the Japanese imagery that comes with it is appealing)
Without any of these non-musical values, these genres would just be different sounds. Although they are, they’re accompanied by other artforms to create an ideal lifestyle.
As with every artist, the music always sounds better when there’s context. We need to know more than just the sound, the name, and how amazing you think it is. Make your sound more than just music, make it a lifestyle.
How to do this?
What does your particular genre need? Does it need a rule-breaker? An experimentalist? A radical performer? Or even a civilised, mature songwriter?
Give your fans a visual component to your music, be it art, fashion, a lifestyle, a piece of studio equipment… Anything, just make sure it’s something your industry is in need of.
You guys probably know this, fans aren’t going to be interested in you until they know you. It’s the same thing with every genre. They need to know the genre just as much as you know it, only then can they love it just as much as you do.
Related article: 7 Unique genres of music to look out for in 2020
Many argue that genres nowadays are nothing more than just a mixture of what we’ve already heard- but i think they’re more than that. They’re a chance for artists to coin a term for opportunities that had gone unnoticed by every single artist. If the name lives a long life, then it has proven the test of time and is bound to leave a legacy worth learning about.
Thank you for reading!