'Streaming could be good for genre, allowing as it does for anyone to begin listening to, say, prog-rap or punk jazz at the click of a button'FLICKR/KEVINLIM

The start of a new year and certainly a whole new decade encourages us to look back on the  past and to ask questions about what may change as we go into the future. What you may not have asked yourself is where might music and, more specifically, genre go in the decade that lies ahead. The death of genre, the categories which divide types of music, has been predicted for some time now. When ‘Feel It Still’, the earworm by Portugal. The Man, conquered charts across the world many outlets pointed out how it drew material from various canons including rock, pop and funk into a compulsive tune. Is the future of music going forward for it to be uncategorizable, genre-defying? 

The forthcoming year already prophecies artists ditching the genres they once used to define their sound and draw their listeners in, instead adopting a more fluid style that takes elements from multiple genres. This predicts the loss of the genres we already know, in place of new experimental, mixed genres.  Take Mura Masa’s upcoming album ‘R.Y.C.’, which is to be released in late January. His past albums and EPs could be defined as mainly electronica, albeit a kind of alternative electronica, but no doubt within the genre’s realm. 

Is the future of music going forward for it to be uncategorizable, genre-defying? 

Looking towards Mura Masa’s new album however, which is filled with features by indie rock artists like Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell and grime/hip-hop artist slowthai, obviously implies a departure from an electronic style towards sound that is heavily influenced by Indie Rock and Grime. This new bold, brave move by artists like Mura Masa to merge elements from a whole range of different genres may be just the beginning of a new trend which catches on over the decade. As they move further away from the genres they started their careers with though, what happens to those original genres and who is left to define them - could they be lost forever?

The ease with which artists are able to make such leaps, like the one above, yet still being very successful with their listeners may also indicate that, in the decade ahead, genre is going into an age where it no longer fulfills a role of being a defining characteristic of people’s music taste. One genre isn’t really enough for listeners anymore; hence it is not enough for artists either. I know that I find it very difficult to give a simple answer to the age-old question of ‘what kind of music do you listen to’, not being able to choose just one genre. Whereas at one point, perhaps even at the start of the last decade, if you asked anyone on the street the same question, they’d have probably been able to give you a simple answer, likely to include one or two genres. Within another 10 years, we might expect music listeners to be completely frazzled when trying to describe the music they listen to, not quite being able to narrow it down.  

One genre isn’t really enough for listeners anymore; hence it is not enough for artists either

Perhaps this may encourage us to question whether genre will be slowly dismantled in the next decade due to our increasingly savvy listening habits. We no longer have to really think about what record or CD to buy, instead we have access to thousands of different albums and genres available at our fingertips through streaming services, whose algorithms will tell you what you should listen to next, perhaps even going ahead and playing it for you – which makes it easy to flit between genres with ease. Going into the 2020s, as technology gets smarter and algorithms more attuned to our habits, we might see genre slowly replaced with types of technology that perfectly predicts your music taste – defining it for you, instead of us relying on trying to find music by looking around the genres we already know.

That said, streaming could be good for genre, allowing as it does for anyone to begin listening to, say, prog-rap or punk jazz at the click of a button. With increasingly easy access to such a broad range of genres through streaming services, as we head into the next decade people are delving deeper into the genres, finding sub-fields of their favourite genres, or even finding completely new genres they would have never had access to before. The internet has allowed for the founding of new subcultures which can be interconnected in a way that geography used to render impossible. 


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It seems that genre in the next decade may be saved by people wanting the return of genres long gone, or discovering niche, specific sounds that they want to hear more of. Though music itself seems to be moving beyond such divisions, it may be equally resuscitated by a streaming service pointing its users towards music still made under the rules of genre. Whether the divisions between categories of music disappear completely though, or flourish under the umbrella of streaming services, we can be thankful for the immediacy with which we can access all music - whenever and whatever we please. 

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