Once upon a time music genres were largely defined by geography. Bands who played the same club circuit in a city swapped ideas (and musicians) and created their own distinct musical microcosms. Even musical subcultures like punk had distinct geographical differences. But what do you do when one of the existing music genres just doesn't cut it?
Simple. You make up your own.
First, the Music
In order to invent your own genre, you first have to create music that isn't immediately identifiable as coming under one of the hundreds of currently existing genres. If you've created a '90s style alternative rock band and are trying to call it "emotive post-nu-metal" then everyone is just going to laugh at you. They're probably laughing at you anyway.
Attack Attack try to get us to stop laughing at them with that whole, "Wait...what's that over THERE!?" trick.
So you've got to come up with something that doesn't fit anywhere else. This isn't quite as impossible as it seems, because you can simply combine elements of different style of music until you get something that sounds different. Is anyone combining rap and country AND black metal? I don't think so...(perhaps there is a reason for this? Also: we're halfway there...meet country/black metal band Appalachian Hunger!). Maybe you can find an unfilled gap in the musical genre spectrum.
Alternatively, find a band with a truly unique style that hasn't hit the big time yet, and push their sound into a slightly different direction. This band has now become the grandfather of your genre, and you are the younger but more successful definitive band.
Once you've defined the sound of your genre, you need to give it an acceptable name. Genre names vary from the descriptive (Elevator Music, Drone, Sludge) to the geographical (Louisiana Blues, True Norwegian Black Metal) to the downright bizarre (Cowpunk, Psydeco, Raggacore).
A tried and true formula is to use a random word that might vaguely describe your music or the people who listen to it - or a collection of hyphenated genre names - and add assorted prefixes and suffixes. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- "post-": means "came after". Used as a placeholder till someone within the scene comes up with a better name. e.g. "post-punk" was the term until everyone started calling it Goth.
- "pre-": means "came before", and is used for genres that really never existed until some music blogger decided they did, for example, describing Led Zeppelin as "pre-metal".
- "Nu-": means "new". And is used to describe complete and utter bollocks [a.k.a. "bullshit"].
- "Free-": means "Unbound by rules". Usually refers to bands that want a justification for why they can't play in time.
- "-core": means "even louder and more annoying" and usually used by heavily tattooed prepubescent musicians who want to be EXTREME.
- "symphonic-, avant-garde-, modern-": means "more elite and musically adept than your average bear", and is used almost exclusively by Europeans.
- "extreme-" see "core".
- "technical-": see "symphonic"
- "tech": not to be confused with "technical", tech means "made on a computer" and is used to describe music that only sounds good at 4 in the morning after chewing on rainbow candy.
- "dark-": means "dark" and is used by musicians who want to break into the lucrative teen Goth market without actually admitting to being Goth.
- "neo-": means "new" and is used by people who don't know what it means and have never bothered to look it up.
- "fusion": means "joined together" and used to describe mash-ups of genres that should never be mashed-up [see country/black metal above].
- "wave": means "Brace yourself. There's more of this to come". Describes "movements" within a genre that usually follow each other in sequential order: "The First Wave of Black Metal", "The New Wave of British Heavy Metal".
Next, the History
Legitimate genres don't just appear out of thin air. If you want to create a genre people accept, you'll need to associate it with more than just your band. This is the tricky bit: you have to come up with a conceptual reason for the evolution of your new genre.
Your genre needs some grandfathers – bands who've influenced its sound without actually being considered part of the genre itself. If you've made a genre by mashing together sounds from different bands, choose these bands as your grandfathers.
You also need to find other bands that fit within your genre. While this may seem counter-intuitive (after all, you've created this genre to draw attention to your band) having other bands in your genre gives you legitimacy. Use sites like MadeLoud to find other bands that kinda sorta maybe use the same sounds as you. You've found your genre posse.
Finally, the Grand Reveal
To truly have your new genre recognized as a legitimate musical term, you'll need to get music journalists and bloggers to use it. Once one blogger describes the term, others will pick up on it. Although they may be derisive at first, the very discussion of your genre's legitimacy will reinforce its existence. Suddenly, you'll be inundated with interview requests and industry experts will be called in to solve the great debate.
If you could describe your band as a brand-new musical genre, what would it be?
Header image from "dinosaur metal" band Hevisaurus.