The over-categorisation of sub-genres is a phenomenon we see all over music and throughout musical history. Constant arguments between critics as to whether something is PC music or hyperpop, or, metalcore or post-hardcore, to give two examples, are common within the musical world. This often happens either because music today can have so many influences that sometimes tracks don’t even fit into a genre at all or because at the end of the day what classifies certain types of music into certain genres, is simply down to opinion, especially when the rules of the genre aren’t clearly defined.
However in electronic music, this problem is frequent and can get rather annoying. When the difference sometimes between different genres of music is that one is 140bpm and the other 139, people have even more of a reason to argue about things. But is this a problem within the electronic music world? Or is it just an inevitability when sub-genres are sometimes so loosely defined?
Why does this become problematic ?
A clear example of the problematic aspect of over-categorisation was pointed out by me in an earlier Music Mondays article. In fact I realised that I myself often become a part of the problem when I noted that often British dubstep fans, me included, refer to American dubstep as ‘Brostep’. While in a sense this is a clear example of gatekeeping and even snobbery in the electronic music world. It has now got to the point where a large section of underground music fans actually see Brostep as being an official genre term and don’t realise that it only exists because British electronic music fans like myself want to keep their music in the underground and separate themselves from the more commercial side of the genre.
While admittedly I do partake in this myself, one can see there is a clear issue here. When people start making up genre names in an attempt to simply show that their music is better it puts people off the scene and puts up a snobbish front in an attempt to make fun of others simply because they believe their music is better, despite the fact their technically almost exactly the same genre.
The more innocent side of the argument:
Of course this isn’t the only reason why people get mixed up over music genres. Sometimes, as I mentioned the genres are just loosely defined. This leads to the classic “techno or tekno” moments where genres meld into each other and often the only thing separating them is the opinion of a certain dj or disgruntled music critic. In a sense its inevitable in electronic music that this occurs due to the fact that genres are often separated by 1bpm or are even sometimes the same speed but are only different because one gives off a certain “vibe”. Even I struggle trying to keep up with some of my more musical friends when they have an argument about whether a certain track is juke, ghetto or footwork, three very similar genres of Chicago based house, only for it to turn out that none of them are really right because there are no written rules.
Of course, as we find in all walks of life, when there are no factual rules people are then free to have their own opinions, and really who can argue that they are wrong? However as noted there is a real problem with gatekeeping in the electronic music world. And while it may stem from good intentions, the desire not to let local culture turn commercial being one. It can also be quite obnoxious when people start making up terms and genres simply to keep others out and put them off the scene. While genre arguments will always be inevitable, I feel there is a point where you just have to shut up and enjoy the music.