Genre: the most arbitrary tag of them all. Guaranteed to evolve. Always in question.
The thing I hate about music is the inherent difficulty in classifying it, but if this weren’t the case, it wouldn’t be an artform, and that would be unacceptable. So the price of admission is to make the best sense of it that we can and to get on with the business of enjoying it.
Genre is in the main based on opinion. You might think a track is a different genre to someone else. I’ve found from personal experience that this is sometimes due to my own lack of awareness of certain musical styles.
I can only give you guidelines as regards genre classification, but I think they will aid you in that most senior of considerations, optimise the organisation of your music for retrieval on an iPod.
Refer to Source
If you don’t know, see what the original artist considers it to be. If they don’t say, then hit the big guns: Wikipedia, Allmusic and a general Google Search. Put all of the opinions together and decide based on averages.
Keep the Number of Genres Down
I used to specify “Rock”, “Alt-Rock”, “Hard Rock” and “Punk Rock”. The specific subgenres didn’t really help me create Smart Playlists or find music on my iPod, so I started to use less. I started to get so much “Alt-Rock” that calling it “Alt” didn’t usefully differentiate the tracks from “Rock” tracks. Also, if you only have a handful of tracks with a specific genre, then it’s not worth specifying them so precisely. Keep it simple.
“Soundtrack” and “Chillout” are Not Genres
I don’t care what you say, but these are not genres. Consider Isaac Hayes’ Shaft. It consists of funk, soul, R&B tracks. Consider Spiderman. It’s full of rock tracks. There’s a pop song or two in there. That disproves the “soundtrack is a genre” argument. Tagging a track as “soundtrack” will exclude it from searches or playlists that look for the genre that actually represents the track.
The same holds true for chillout. Chillout is an emotional response. The genres of music that evoke this are jazz, R&B, rock, pop, electronica, etc. My rule is “If it chills me out, it’s chillout music”, but because multiple genres can give this response, it’s not a genre in itself.
I’m big on chillout music. My favourite playlist is a Smart Playlist that picks 8 hours of chillout music at random. I usually play this all day at work. I achieve this by using the Comment field instead of using Chillout as a genre. Put a keyword like chillout in the Comment field and search on that. I also do this for soundtrack and live. This means you can preserve the actual genre while subclassifying.
Your Library Will Evolve
Music is dynamic. That means your library will change, and not just to add new tracks. Your knowledge of music constantly changes, so you find yourself updating earlier tags. I find that the tag that changes the most is genre. Use the genre tag to make your library more useful, not more complex.