This Is Why Genres Are Stupid

In an ideal world, I think genres shouldn’t exist. Here’s why…

musical genres
image via Melodrive

First, genres are just boxes that we shouldn’t try to put music in, like I did with my earlier music.

But secondly, genres are not descriptive. In some cases, they confuse things more than help.

For example, saying a band is a “Folk” band doesn’t tell me anything. That could be Fleet Foxes or Bob Dylan or Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

All very different sounds.

“Rock” music could be Queen or Arcade Fire. “Rap” could be Kanye or John Reuben.

And what the heck is “Alternative”? That tells me nothing about the sonic properties of the music.

I know genres are helpful for finding music that could sound a certain way because they’re one-word categories that give people a very general idea of the music. I’ll give them that.

But when describing your music, don’t just say “Punk rock” or “Folk.”

Instead, I have another idea.

We musicians could say things like “Coldplay is a mini-me of U2” or “Allen Stone is when you combine the voice of Stevie Wonder, the soul of Bill Withers, and the perspective of a grownup millennial.”

Like, this is how I’d probably describe my upcoming album:

“It’s like if Coldplay and Bill Withers taught Ben Kweller how to make music and then 21 Pilots popped into the room, turned some knobs and flipped some switches.”

I think that gives people a much more descriptive idea of what they’re about to hear.

So I guess my point is, don’t think of your music as “this” or “that” genre.

Think outside the boxes. Use descriptions and words that give people a clear idea of what your music sounds like.


With Bandzoogle‘s drag-and-drop website builder and their built-in music player, you can just show people what your music sounds like rather than try to explain what label or genre you “fit” into.  And you can get 30 days free right here.

I use it for my website and it’s great.

Don’t Limit Your Creativity

I’ve been learning some things about the creative process recently. And it has to do with limitations. Or the lack of them.

creative process
image via The Virtual Instructor

Here’s my thought: only place boundaries on yourself for specific creative reasons, not to fit a certain genre or to be the artist others expect you to be.

I did that in my earlier music-making days. And my music suffered for it.

I was a “folk” musician so I would only use “real” instruments (no keyboards, only pianos; no drum machines, only live drums; no electric guitar, only acoustic).

I think I was actually condescending about it.

I limited my options just to fit a pre-determined box of a genre, making music that people expected a folk artist to make. But genres change and evolve, so why try to fit the definition of today’s “folk” music?

Think about it — “pop music” literally means the popular music of the day. Popular music changes over time (I mean, The Beatles were pop in their day). And any change within a genre happens because of artists who don’t try to fit into any of the current boxes, artists who stretch the boundaries.

Basically, I don’t like genre labels.

So from now on, I don’t want to have any genre boundaries in my head. I want to just record everything I hear. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But at least I tried.

I think this will help me make better music — music I’m more proud of.  I think it will end up being way more meaningful to me.

All this to say, don’t limit yourself unless it’s for a specific creative reason, to see what you can do with less.

Otherwise, let every idea out then sort through the good and the bad later.


A great app that has helped me organize my creative process is Evernote. I literally do all of my songwriting on it.

And you can use my referral link to get a free month of a Premium account (although the Free account is awesome too…I use it).

Spark Inspiration With The “Caffeinated Ideas Journal”

Coffee drinkers get things done. Tea drinkers change lives. Caffeinated people change the world. 

tumblr_nuivazNH0Q1t3i99fo1_1280

Caffeinated Ideas Journal helps caffienateurs generate new ideas by offering the perfect drink to wake up the brain.

It pairs coffee­making instructions with inspiring words from author Lisa McGuinness to help you brainstorm your next invention, story, or what-have-you.

It includes blank pages so you can write, draw, or doodle, just as long as you get your ideas out and down on paper.

If you want to be inspired by French Press Coffee, you’ll see simple steps on how to make it accompanied by a whimsical illustration by New York artist Danielle Kroll.

The book covers espressos and cappuccinos, lattes and Americanos, black tea and chai tea. Ending the book is a “Who’s Who of the Caffeinated Inspired Page,” which lists people like Gary Larson, Bach, and Ralph Waldo Emerson as influencers.

This book encourages you to pick your caffeinated serum and get those idea cogs churning.


Originally published on Wink Books