Popular Music Genres & Narratives
In ‘Studying Popular Music Culture’ (Wall, 2003) the opinions of various academics with different ‘processes of genre identification’ are discussed. The general view of genre is the different styles of music, for example, rock, metal or dance music. However, some theorists including Alan Moore suggest that the ‘musical form’ is the genre, for example a ballad or love song. However, Robert Walser believes that the genre of music can differ based on fan’s opinions and the expansion of genre that can results from a certain genre becoming popular or influential.
‘Popular Music and Local Identity’ (Mitchell, 1996) categorises music using styles which have progressed through time. For example, the popularity of indie rock began in the 1980s during the post-punk era when independent labels began signing ‘alternative rock’ bands alongside the introduction of Britpop. Mitchell also explains in detail how one genre can create another.
Wall suggests that genres can expand and form sub-genres, for example, Dance Music led to House and Garage, both names after the places they were originally played most. Techno music was also named after certain producers of dance music began using more forms of technology. Mitchell discusses the idea of ‘musical appropriation’ which involves borrowing or copying ‘a phrase or style or sound or inflection’ which can lead to new genres. An example of this would be the transition from Punk Rock to Grunge or the combination of Reggae and Techno that led to Jungle. However, this can also be seen as a ‘betrayal of origins’ by audiences who don’t want genres of music to be copied or changed. He also notes that ‘musical appropriation’ can result in copyright issues. Mitchell’s text focussed on the development of entirely new genres rather than Wall’s ideas of expansion into sub-genres.
These readings made me think about the relationship between producers, distributors and consumers in the music industry and how they each view genre differently. For example, a producer, or musician would most likely be aiming to make music in a certain style or genre, possibly similar to their influences and other similar artists. Distributors would be the managers or workers at a record label who would decide where the music was distributed and how it was promoted and could categorize it a certain way to make the intended target audience buy it. Finally, the consumers are the audiences looking for music to buy and possible basing their decisions on music they’ve previously bought of the same genre.
If I was going to research this area I would analyse an online music store such as the iTunes store. I would look at the recommended tracks and albums that are suggested based on previous purchases and see why the store sees them as similar. I would look to see if the name of the genre, the tempo, the vocals or the overall sound were the same.
Mitchell, T. 1996, ‘Popular Music and Local Identity: Rock, Pop and Rap in Europe and Oceania, Leicester University Press, Londno
Wall, T, (2003). ‘Genre’. In: (ed), Studying Popular Music Culture. 1st ed. UK: Hodder & Stoughton Educational. pp.(179-188).