How Many Music Genres Exist?

Any music lover who is organizing his or her music collection in iTunes will quickly learn that classifying music can be an exercise in futility. Many songs purchased from iTunes, Amazon, or eMusic are assigned genres that seem quite arbitrary and in many cases are rather meaningless. In some respects, the classification of music is like a Rorschach test — every music enthusiast has a different interpretation.

Some songs and musicians simply defy easy classification. For example, how does one classify Engima (Michael Cretu)? One will find the following classifications: electronic, new age, world beat, down tempo, ambient, gregorian chant, rock, progressive rock, alternative rock, trance, krautrock, and so forth. Which is it? Or is it all of them? To complicate matters, some musicians evolve throughout their careers, producing a body of work that spans many genres.

iTunes simplifies the genre list down to a manageable handful, but that is only the tip of the musical iceberg. Exactly how many music genres exist? Since music classification is so subjective, and a moving target as new genres evolve, there is no precise answer; however that hasn’t stopped some mortals from attempting to create the “definitive” list of music genres.

The granddaddy of the music genre lists is Wikipedia with the most comprehensive alphabetized list of more than 1,650 music genres, from A cappella to Zydeco. Sam Hughes is the author of the blog, “Every Musical Genre Ever” started in 2005 that uses the democratic process to assemble his list. Music lovers send in their category, Sam verifies it, then posts it. So far, his list includes 843 music genres. In his verification process, Hughes has caught a number of fake categories that have a list of their own (eg, cake core, flip rock, slip-hop, and demoncore). Another music lover has created a website titled “Genres of Music: The Most Definitive Music Genre List on the Web.” The list is assembled in a similar fashion to Hughes’s list. The list, with a current total of 257 genres, differs from the other two in that the genres are listed by theme which is quite useful when trying to classify music.

Not to be outdone in the category of music genres, the mischievous list makers at Top Tenz have published their very short list of the most ridiculous music genres to avoid in your iTunes library: Screamo, Cuddlecore, Laptop Pop, Blackened Death Metal, Comedy Rap, Naturalism, Neo-Psychedelia, Country Truck Driving Music, Nintendocore, and Horrorcore. Perhaps certain music lovers should be more careful about answering the question: “What’s on your iPod?”

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One thought on “How Many Music Genres Exist?

  1. wow, I never heard of Zydeco before. And the idea of cuddlecore is kind of scary.. I mean some of these genres sound more like band names than genres. maybe every band is now a genre unto itself… i personally categorize enigma as That Chill Chanty Music With Ethereal World Instruments That Always Haunt My Dreams, maybe to each her own 🙂

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