The Pros and Cons of Blending Genres

A question artists often ask us is whether its better to focus their sound or try their best to be diverse in the material they deliver. Our best advice is to play the music you want to make, but as we are not musicians ourselves it’s easy to understand why some might not put much weight in that opinion. So, with that in mind, we found a musician to respond for us. Enjoy.

“Broooo you guys sound like The Roots crossed with Bruno Mars!”

“Nah yo, they sound like Jurassic 5 meets the Rolling Stones!”

“OMG! Like, do you guys play any Mumford & Sons?!! You have all the instruments…except the banjo I guess…”

While none of these post-show fan comments are entirely accurate (especially that last one), the underlying truth is that we, the DownBeat Keys, blend many genres in our eclectic-yet-cohesive pop / hip-hop / funk / rock sound.  While initially our “genre-fying” tendencies created hurdles to greater commercial success, there are signs that popular tastes and music industry convention are evolving in our favor.

If we had written this blog three years ago, it would have been full of complaints. In a music industry built around inflexible radio formats, “falling in the cracks” used to be the kiss of death. If your music didn’t fit one of the genres supported by radio, industry execs didn’t know how to market it, and were thus extremely hesitant to sign any artist that blended genres to the point of defying a clear-cut designation.

While this attitude is no doubt still present, there are many reasons for eclectic artists to be optimistic. In the past few years, mainstream radio seems to have loosened. Following the robo-pop dominated late 2000s, acoustic / folk-rock revival started to appear on the airwaves. Music incorporating throwback influences followed shortly after, with artists such as Bruno Mars, Pharrell and Daft Punk scoring major mainstream hits with tracks that drew heavily on old-school sounds. Also worth mentioning are the host of novelty songs cropping up of late, such as the doo-wop tinged “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor  or Lunchmoney Lewis’s ragtime-electro anthem (what?) “Bills.”

With even the CEO of Spotify predicting that genres will fade away, we feel confident that popular tastes and the music industry at large  are warming to genre-fying artists. So we plan to keep on blending, even if it means girls compare us to Mumford & Sons…

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.