Growing up in the 80’s or 90’s it was easy to identify yourself musically when asked what was your favorite Band or Artist. The answer immediately defined the Genre of Music you were interested in and often would determine the compatibility of ensuing friendships. Around 80% of young people today cannot be categorized by the Genre of Music they listen to. Those defining boundaries have all but disappeared and the birth of the Genre-less fan is upon us. That’s a radical departure for the music industry that once thrived on categorizing its music, artists and Listeners into genres. How did this happen? And how does Grace fit in?

Perhaps the most significant change is the evolution of the super-fan. The once super obsessed and staunchly loyal fan (myself included) that consumed everything and anything from their favorite Artist is all but gone. Fans are not devoted and obsessed with any single artist anymore. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but for the most part very few fans listen to an album from start to finish. Ironically, Grace herself does seem to have her fair share of super-fans, but she too is difficult to categorize. This in part is due to her youth and still finding her sound but also her growth as an Artist as she too is continually influenced by radically different artists and genres.

The shift in Artist loyalty can also be attributed to the Streaming mentality. Spotify and Apple music have dramatically changed the accessibility and volume of Artists and Songs instantly available at your fingertips. Music consumption is done track-by-track through playlists rather than Albums, many of which are suggested through algorithms that pre-determine your preferences. Many people don’t even know the name of the track or even the Artist they are listening to. The algorithms not only take into account the genre or style you gravitate towards, they push forced popularity based on income revenue streams some of which are based on popularity. Even with a hardened fan-base, Grace’s success in the Music industry may hinge on those algorithms picking her songs. Grace may need to find her sound quickly so that she can be categorized and made more popular ironically by random selection and forced popularity.

From a music marketing standpoint the ability to define their consumers is nearly impossible. The fact that there are genre-Less fans and yet their need to categorize the artist and music poses an incredible challenge. Further compounding the issue is that many artists are difficult to define, Grace herself included. The solution seems to be to artificially create or accent an artists’ personality or sexuality. Social media will inevitably target these marketed personalities in a whirlwind of cascading popularity that defines and categorizes them, ultimately doing all the work for the marketing team as they try to define popularity and their forced media push.

I am saddened that an artist is no longer popular based on their “artistry”. An artist used to succeed because they worked tirelessly to get heard, could play their instrument like it was an extension of their being or had great songwriting talent. Now, sadly, they just need a simple wardrobe malfunction to get noticed and made popular. I’m oversimplifying but you get my point. Grace’s songs like “DKCM” or “Lungs” should define Grace as an exceptional songwriter with critical acclaim. Yet, they are mostly shelved for a music industry that is scared to be different. Music must fit the mold, be overly simplified with repeatable and recognizable patterns to hit the charts.

Music, artists and fans are difficult to categorize in today’s music industry. Technology and the movement toward streaming services are feeding into a society of algorithm-driven playlists. The super-fans are on the endangered species list as loyalty and dedication to Artists is disappearing. The music industry continues to manufacture identities and push popularity purely for profit. Artists are seldom made popular based on their skill and talent alone in a genre-Less world. Ironically, it’s the fans’ themselves that are causing their own demise by falling prey to forced distribution and technology.

Can Grace overcome the trends of a genre-less world? Will Grace ever be “popularized” because of her songwriting talent alone?

This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: