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written by Kristi Ameringer

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Rock. Rap. House. Metal. Techno. R&B. Alternative. Indie. Industrial. Punk. Grunge. Underground. Rave. Avant-Garde. Ska. Shoegaze.

The genre lists these days on music internet sites have grown to bewildering proportions. It's become the 'hip' thing to reclassify every new band hitting the market with their own unique genre; witness Korn's birth of the emo classification. While this may serve to give your music it's own niche out there on the internet, the overall result from the explosion of musical genres is confusion and malaise in internet users. It's no longer possible for a fan of rock music to simply search for songs in the rock genre; now they must choose between hard rock, indie rock, alternative rock, punk rock, emo rock, goth rock...the list goes on and on. Add to that the fact that more and more artists are adding their music out there for download, and you've got millions of tracks in hundreds of genres; too many for even the most dedicated web surfer with the fastest connection in the world to listen to them all. So how should you classify your music to get the most attention from your audience?

The problems of choosing a proper genre classification for your music is not one limited to independent artists; every artist faces this problem today. New genre classifications are poorly defined at best, and even the major players in the music industry seem to have forgotten the old tried and true definitions of 'classic' genres such as rock or dance. There was a day when genre classification had some basis in musical reality. Differences between rock, hard rock, metal, and industrial were defined by the tempo of the music, the choice of instrumentation, and the style of production. Genre classification seems these days to be driven by audience perceptions of music. In other words, it's your listeners who decide whether you're 'heavy' enough to be called hard rock or 'grunge' enough to be called garage. And here's where we get to the heart of the problem.

Depending on where you're at, a group like AC/DC can go from being classified as simple rock to hard rock to metal. Think I'm wrong? Ask a 'rock' fan in the Northern U.S. what rock is, then ask someone from the Southern states. You'll get two different answers. It gets even worse when you widen your search to the world. I've found UK sites listing Elton John as hard rock and German sites listing Rammstein as just rock. This makes it difficult for you as an independent artist to get your music out to the people who might like it, especially when you're up against the majors who throw money around advertising their artists everywhere.

Research is one way to overcome this problem. You must develop an understanding of how each country or region would classify your music in order to effectively reach your audience. Your advertising pitch should be modified for every new country to best fit their expectations. The easiest way to do this is to pick one well-known band or artist that you think your music is similar to. Then search that band or artist out on every music site you can find. If you think you might sound similar to Marilyn Manson, check to see what genres he's listed under in various countries. You may find a need to advertise your music as hard rock or metal in France but pop rock in Germany. This is particularly important in getting reviews in other countries. A reviewer in France expecting a hard rock release may be shocked and disappointed when he/she thinks you belong in metal or pop rock.

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