What's With the All the Sub-Genre Labels?

At the risk of sounding like an old man screaming at the kids to get off his lawn, I'm going to bring up something I've noticed in the past few years...

music - get off my lawn

Back in my day, we had things like Rap and Hip-Hop.  Those were two legit labels because one was talking about the newer, aggressive rap music while hip-hop referred to the old boom-bap, East Coast style of positivity and complex lyricism.

Back in my day, we had labels like Rock & Roll, Southern Rock, and Heavy Metal.  I didn't complain when groups like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park started being called Nu-Metal though, because it was new and different.  I celebrated when Dubstep hit the scene.  But why do we need upwards of 17 Dubstep Sub-Genres?

Where You Start to Lose Me

There are certain points where I just get lost in the labels.  I get that they help us communicate, but they also block people out of the discussion because they are so peculiarly specific.

Exhibit A: Reddit

I was browsing around Reddit the other day after hearing this Techno song that reminded me of the 80's when MIDI hit the scene and people started trying to create music that sounded futuristic.  In my mind, it was Techno, but I could also see calling it Electronic.  That'd be fine.  But then I stepped into an entire world of craziness.

I don't know if this is because the internet has blown music wide open and all of these artists are trying to make their own marks on the world or that we can all find exactly what we specifically like.  Like... I get it.  I really like horror movies and got off on this special kind of rap called Horrorcore for a while.  Even there people started trying to break off with Acid Rap and Death Rap, so I get how it happens.  I get it because I watched it evolve.

But when I was on Reddit I discovered the term Retro-Futurism for the song I liked.  That was great because now I knew how to find more.  And I went looking and found more than I bargained for.  I learned about things like Psybient, Jazznoir, and LiquidChill.  Wat.

Exhibit B: Bars

I've been out and about downtown at various bars, where the main attraction are the bands playing.  This of course sparks conversation about music.  We'll all be out back and some hipster dude will join the convo and make sure we know his favorite genre is something like Nu-Americana Psycho Billy Christ Rock.

What blew my mind is other people would be like "Oh yeah for sure, bro.  Do you like this random band?"  I chalked it up to hipsters basically being grown teenagers who still find their identity in music and movies and have to like the most unique things so they feel unique.  But it's not just them.  It's everyone these days.  Everyone knows all of these labels and sub-sub-sub-sub-genres except me!  I even learned about Japanese Idol Pop Baby Metal!  Where does it stop!?!?  You kids need some parental advisory.

I Don't Think It's a Bad Thing

There, I said it.  I really don't think it's a bad thing.  However...

This evolving language and increasingly specific nomenclature enhances communication... until it doesn't.

At a certain point, communication breaks down.  If you create an in-group that's so tiny and has a ridiculous barrier to entry that ultimately boils down to being able to speak a new secretive language full of made up adjectives and nouns, then what's the point?

That blocks growth and blocks the spreading of your favorite styles and artists.  You're literally dooming your favorite stuff from ever evolving or gaining enough financial backing to continue.  Back in my day, we liked our musicians rich (and talented).

kids and their sub genres

Maybe that IS the point though... YOU KIDS STAY OFF MY LAWN!