Music, like any art form, can be very subjective. Your musical interests may not fit into just one genre. But marketing and social media tagging relies heavily on putting specific labels and hashtags on your songs so potential fans can find them.
So where is the middle ground? Must you stick to one genre or style? Or is it okay to dabble? I want to answer these questions today based on my own experience as a multi-genre artist.
- Can An Artist Do Different Genres?
- Should I Separate My Different Styles
- Should I Release Different Music Styles Under a Different Name?
- One Artist Name vs Multiple Personas
- Other Articles to Consider
Can An Artist Do Different Genres?
Yes, a music artist is free to release music in a variety of styles. However, the strength of your personal brand will have a major impact on whether your current or previous fans will like it. Let me explain.
Artists Who “Matured” Their Sound
There are many artists who have significantly changed their style over their careers…fans and critics embraced it and said those artists were “maturing” in their sound. But most of those artists had already established themselves. Some good examples would be:
- Cher (folk pop and R&B to electropop)
- Taylor Swift (went from country to trap pop to folk)
- Clairo (bedroom pop to folk pop)
Artists Who Revamped Themselves
Then there are some musicians who stagnate in their first genre, but suddenly find popularity with a totally new fanbase when they branch out. For example:
- Have you ever heard of Pink Guy, a gross-out rapper? Because you may know him now as the pop artist Joji.
- The Goo Goo Dolls started as a punk band with heavy metal influences even. Yes, I’m talking about the band behind the alternative rock classic “Iris”.
- Katy Perry started her career as Katy Hudson and her first album was actually Christian pop rock
- Lizzy Grant was a singer-songwriter who dabbled in Americana, folk, and even metal music before taking on the persona of Lana Del Rey and becoming an alternative pop icon.
Will Your Fans Follow Your Genre Change?
So it’s totally possible for you to change genres or even play multiple genres at once. The question then becomes: will your fans come with you as your genre and style changes?
The answer to that depends on your branding. If you have a strong enough brand image built around you as a person, then the fans will partake in any kind of music you’re willing to make.
Sometimes people just like an artist for who that person is. The more popular and likeable that artist becomes, the less relevant their genre gets.
But if you’re not yet famous (and I assume you aren’t), then shifting genres can cause what fans you already have to jump ship. They may not be personally attached to you; rather, they enjoy the style of music that you make.
If you still want to try different genres, there are two ways to go about it:
- Mix in a few different styles of songs into your regular release schedule under your current artist name and see how your current fans react, or
- Start releasing the new genre under a different artist name so you don’t alienate your current fans
Should I Separate My Different Styles
I would recommend that you separate your styles of music in a couple different situations:
- The genres you make are vastly different, with completely separate fan bases. If you make both doom metal and ukulele-laden bedroom pop…I don’t think those two demographics will have much overlap
- Your current genre is very subculture specific. Some sub-genres of music have dedicated fan bases that love the specific niche of music, but aren’t as emotionally attached to the individual artists. If you completely change your genre and style with these people, they will probably stop following you. A good example of these super niche genres include vaporwave or lowercase (yes, that’s a genre of music).
- You’ve received bad publicity in your current genre with your current name. If you tried out a genre and unfortunately bombed, then the stigma might follow you. More specifically, your older social media posts under that name will still link you to your prior failed genre attempt.
Should I Release Different Music Styles Under a Different Name?
There is no requirement that you stick to one style and one artist name. Using different artist names for different styles of music is a good idea for multi-genre artists. It can prevent confusion among fans and critics.
However, I’ve known many people who disagreed with me on this. Some people will tell you to make whatever kind of music you want and release it under the same name. Their reasoning? Because people will appreciate you for who you are. But that’s assuming people will like you as a person enough to follow your genre shifts.
And I’m not saying you’re an unlikable person…I don’t even know you. What I’m saying is that the multi-genre approach usually works for popular artists because they already have a personal brand image that is intricately linked to their looks, personality, and non-music aspects.
The majority of us lowly independent artists are not adored by hungry fans; we have yet to built a brand with which listeners can attach to emotionally.
One Artist Name vs Multiple Personas
There are benefits and drawbacks to both tactics of music release. First, let’s look at the benefits of using just one name as a musician.
Benefits to One Artist Name
- You’ll have less social media accounts to manage. An artist with only one moniker only needs to keep up with one set of social media platforms. Every extra artist name you collect can double the amount of accounts you need to upkeep. Because you should probably have different accounts for each artist name you use, at least if the genres are very different from each other.
- Greater focus of your skills and attention. Likewise, having more than one artist name and genre can easily split your focus. You have two or more audiences to appease, and making enough content to grow every one of your fan bases can quickly drain your energy.
Benefits of Multiple Artist Names
- Easier to target your fan market. By keeping each of your musical styles separate, you can more precisely target your potential fans. Trying to appeal to music listeners in general is oftentimes futile. But knowing exactly what people will like each specific kind of music you make means you can tailor-fit each of your content strategies to match that genre niche.
- More room for creativity. If you put all your eggs into one basket, then it may frighten you to experiment with your sound. It could upset your current fans if you start making different music. That in turn can cripple your creativity and derail your progress if your hard-won listeners start abandoning you over it. Having multiple artist names means you can make whatever kind of music you like without worrying about the negative consequences to your current brand.
- Multiple income streams. Any savvy businessman will tell you to diversify your income streams. That means you should be making money from multiple sources so, in case one of them dries up, you have other revenue to rely on. The same can go for music. Having multiple artist personas could lead you to building multiple income sources. Your fans of one genre may not overlap with the others, so it segments your revenue streams. And if one artist name goes viral, you can simply put more time and energy into it.
There is no limit on the styles of music you are allowed to experiment with. But there can be negative reactions from fans if you change genres too often. That is why the use of multiple artist names can actually help you be more creative and keep your fans happy. Even though the number of names you use will exponentially increase the amount of work you must put in.
I personally release music in a variety of styles all with different artist names. Yet I run my own “record label” so that, if a fan of one genre wants to find my other styles, they easily can. It’s my personal way of walking the line between a single brand persona and many monikers.
The only way you’ll know what works for you is to try either method and see how your current fans react.
Other Articles to Consider
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