top of page

K-Tel was the Original "MUSIC is not a GENRE"

Welcome to WEEK 211 of MUSIC is Not a GENRE (Video Episode #37) K-TEL Was the ORIGINAL “MUSIC is not a GENRE”!

Why Compilations Like These are MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

Various Artists – The Hit List (1982)

Various Artists – Hot Tracks (1983)

Rock. Pop. Funk. Soul. Electronic. What do these words have in common? AT LEAST two things: 1. They’re all so-called “genres” of popular music; and B. They’re all included on the two albums above. Why does that matter? And why am I doing yet another episode about hits collections (this is the fourth week and second video episode)??

Because compilations like these matter more than ever now. The music industry is like any other industry in that it learns as it grows. It tries things, and the things that work it doubles down on, then quadruples down on, until they don’t work anymore. So it tries other things and so on and son on. One of the things it tried that worked – and by “worked” I mean for promotion, sales & programming – is to create the idea of genres. To target market to people who they assume like a certain kind of music more than other kinds. And fuck if it didn’t work like a charm every step of the way. So the industry kept creating more genres, kept subdividing existing genres, kept narrowing the targets for each one.

The many successes of that strategy are hard to dispute, but I’m gonna do it. Here’s one negative effect the industry doesn’t care about: the extreme factionalization of music in all forms of media, which segregates fans and squashes the communal experience of music. Blah blah blah – we might care about that, but that doesn’t sound like a business or money issue, right?

WRONG. And this is why the industry SHOULD care about it. The over-targeting of demographics and the over-reliance on genres and categories and labels in general, have so excluded huge numbers of potential fans that every facet of the music industry is LOSING MONEY. It’s leaving money on the table by alienating fans who don’t “belong” in a demographic it has over-defined as more inclined to be into a certain genre. So this isn’t just about lovey-dovey come together-ness. It’s about COLD HARD CASH. And that’s the way to convince ANY INDUSTRY that discrimination and not caring about some people and the communal experience in general is a bad thing. It hurts the bottom line.

Aaaaaand why did I go into this rant for this episode? Because K-Tel’s annual hits collections were the exact opposite of this. They were cashing in, sure thing. But more than that, deliberately or not, they were acknowledging that it’s possible and even LIKELY that ONE music fan might actually be into MANY kinds of music. It’s something the industry has majorly dropped the ball on, and has been suffering for years now because of it. It’s something the internet as a business extension is also REALLY FUCKING HORRIBLE at – I mean algorithms now do extreme factional targeting that the pre-internet industry could only dream of.

But it’s also something that the CITIZENS of the internet do very well. Some do. And in fact I’d say more do than don’t. More music fans are seeking out more kinds of music than the percentage of fans who only stick to their assigned demographic genres. More musicians are denouncing genres as creative AND business prisons. So give some love to these two amazing hits collections from 1982 & 1983. Albums like this are the grandparents of diversity and connection.

ALL of my band REC’s releases this year – four EPs and one album – were birthed from my MUSIC is not a GENRE project. It’s my way of shattering artistic, commercial and social boundaries. Go listen to what I’ve released so far, here on REC’s YouTube page, and you’ll hear what I mean:

REC on YouTube -

What types of music do you like that you’re “not supposed to”? Do you remember K-Tel and/or hits collections like this? Do you have any favorites from these two collections? Do you seek out music that goes beyond what your playlist algorithms “allow” you to hear? Discuss dammit!

Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page