#genre: Part 2. Genre Tags

In the last installment of this #genre series, I laid out what I see as two competing narratives in popular music discourses: genre-is-dead and genres-are-(over)abundant. In this post, I’ll share one part of the results from my exploration of how these two ideas might coexist in some Spotify metadata. That is, I’ll show what kinds of genre labels Spotify gives to artists.

First, why focus on Spotify? It’s extremely popular, so it has a huge impact on how many people experience the ramifications of categorization. Second, they have an API that makes some of their metrics relatively easily accessible to the public.

Like any streaming service, Spotify has a bunch of ways they categorize their content and make recommendations. I’ll not get into their use of collaborative filtering, word2vec, or web scraping in this post, but you can check out this video if you want an idea of how some of this works. As Spotify gobbles up recommendation services, social media apps, database managers, and music AI companies, their black-box of categorization (and thus genre) becomes ever more opaque, its proprietary algorithms/data shrouded by their very heterogeneity. Continue reading

#genre: Part I

I’ve been busy with application materials and revisions of a largely unrelated article, so my dissertation work has lagged a bit this past month. Since it’s high time for me to write a post on my work, I figured this would be a good opportunity to oil up the gears again. This will end up being a multi-part entry spread over a few weeks, but I’d like to at least begin to share what I’ve been dealing with for the past semester or so. The current post is meant to set the scene of the project, so don’t expect many conclusions just yet.

Essentially, this series will run through the highlights from one of my chapters about how genre is used and experienced in popular music, broadly construed, during our current era of streaming and easy-access. One of my points in a larger project is to explore how ideas of pop categorization and genre signification have perhaps mutated throughout time; how do current understandings and experiences of genre differ from those during other tumultuous, rapidly shifting times in popular music? This particular chapter takes a synchronic slice of the pop pie, comparing some academic, amateur, and critical discourses from the past couple of years with a set of Spotify’s metadata from the spring of 2017. Continue reading