Background to the Music Industry
Genre is how different styles and content are classified into different sub sections. The pop industry relies heavily on genre, as it includes a large variety of styles that change all the time. New genres are continuously being invented or altered, thus genre is important for producers and fans as it allows them to focus in on their particular taste of music. Some genres are just formalities, whereas others are rigidly enforced with specific definitions that the artist must follow. Some of the main genres in the music industry are;
These all have variations as well, for example, Indie Rock, Folk Rock and Punk Rock. These numerous sub genres all still have unique characteristics, such as the rhythm, melody, lyric and vocal style but it can also be defined in the artists clothing or lifestyle. Genre can also be defined in where the artist performs, as this is linked to the type of music they are showcasing.
Genre and Artist Image:
An artist’s image is key, as it categorises them before they even start playing or singing. This makes the artists image a focus point for their management team, as it promotes the artist just as much as their music does. In order for an artist to completely fit into a genre category, they must alter their image to coincide with this genre in every commercial thing they do, as only then will fans recognise that they are part of that specific genre. As music, especially in the genres of pop and hip-hop, can sound quite similar, artists need to differentiate themselves from others and they do this through image. Their image makes them unique in a genre that is fixed on stereotypes. This is something I will need to focus on when I come to make my pop promo for my A Level Coursework. An artist’s image has to represent the genre whilst also conveying a new and fresh look, and this is a hard balance to find.
Genre and Sales:
Genre is also key when looking at music retail, as artists are divided into genre categories in order to calculate overall sales figures and the success of one artist compared to another. For example, the Billboard chart is subdivided into 43 different genres. As well as this, music stores, such as HMV, divide organise their shelves according to genre as it makes it far easier for customers to make their buying choices. Similarly, on-line streaming services, such as Spotify, rely on their consumers past genre choices in order to suggest new music. This ensures that their customers are being satisfied as they are already familiar with that specific genre.
Studying Pop Stars:
There is a lot of controversy surrounding pop stars and the youth-obsessed medium in which they work. Many of the agreed greatest singers of all time, come from a much older generation and have been dead and buried for a long time, but their music still continues to sell and inspire new generations. Why is that? This is because their style has been adopted by new generations, so that their persona's, fans, lifestyle are continued into today’s music industry. This goes against the argument that pop music is ‘of its time’ and is shaped by current historical and cultural context. Some argue that pop music has its moment and value, until something new comes along and changes the dynamic of the genre again. But there are many recurring themes in pop music, so that it does not matter if you are on the ‘Greatest Singers List’ and from 1951 or from today’s society. Pop music still embodies these same set of values:
Youthfulness, Rebellion, Sexual Magnetism, An anti-authoritarian attitude, Originality, Creativity, Talent, Aggression/anger, Disregard for social values in relation to drugs/alcohol/sex/polite behaviour, Large consumption of sex/drugs/material goods, Success against the odds
However, although these values are easy to use at the beginning of one’s career, they quickly burn out and originality and creativity are lost. This is why the pop industry is a young person’s game, as the rock n roll lifestyle soon erodes the youthful look of the star and there is always a new up and coming youngster ready to take the older generations place. This is why prematurely dead artists fit the image of the perfect pop star; they die before their image is altered by old age or unattractive doings. Fans find them easier to follow, as they are still viewed as ‘cool’ and do not succumb to embarrassing middle aged lapses of taste. This why we are so familiar with the members of the ’27 Club’, as those who die early seem to leave their dignity as well as their appeal still intact. Management teams to equally well if their star dies early, as it causes a sudden boom in sales as the artists name is being broadcast hugely. For example, Michael Jackson sold more music in the week after his death than he had been years previously, and his music is still being played. This occurs, because the star can be marketed, not as a talent but as an obituary and this draws in fans on a huge scale.
This links to Richard Dyer’s Theory of Star Image, as the ‘pop performer’ is quickly replaced by the ‘pop star’. The two are not the same thing, but artists today are being presented as ‘pop stars’, as it easy to gain fame through exposes in magazines or some lovers scandal instead of through music. Dyer argues that a star is an image, not a real person and that they are constructed out of a range of materials. Numerous pop stars fit into this classification, as they are a brand that will quickly be forgotten as another person steps into the limelight.