What kind of music are you in to?

‘What kind of music are you in to?’. Seems like a harmless enough question, right? And sure, it is. But when you’re a Picky Bastard, a music obsessive, it’s not an easy one to answer. Do you throw them a few band names? But what if they haven’t heard of them? Spend ages explaining that the bass player on this was the same person who sang on that other song they might have heard of 20 years ago? Or take the safe approach and list the most popular acts you’re a fan of, and risk failing to communicate the nuances of your tastes? Perhaps picking some genres is a better idea? But what a genre can mean to different people can vary wildly. One man’s exquisite jazz trumpet solo is another man’s nightmare. Also genres (as we know) are bullshit – more on this later.

It depends who’s asking the question too. Is it another music fan? Or is it some distant relative at a family get together? The intentions will be different, as will their capacity for and willingness to hear your incredibly detailed answer. 

Enough fretting, we’ve covered all this before anyway. It’s time to come up with an answer, once and for all. Inspired by fellow Bastard Matt Paul’s dislike of questions and love of stats, I’ve turned to cold, hard facts to definitively answer the question ‘what kind of music are you in to?. There’s even a graph.

So how did I come up with this? First, some methodology. I had to put strict limits on which music I was going to use as my evidence. I don’t have the time to document and classify all the music I listen to on the radio, on streaming platforms, live, and on the physical media I own. I decided to limit it to vinyl only. It’s music we can safely say I’m willing to invest both time and money in. It’s my very favourite music as I only buy the stuff I really like, rather than listening casually to one or two songs. It also roughly corresponds to the last two years or so of music buying and acquisition since I made the switch from CD. Although not all of these are new releases, it means I’m looking at a snapshot of my most up to date tastes. 

Secondly, I had to choose how to categorise the information. The original question asks ‘what kind of music…’, so breaking it down by genre seemed most logical. Of course, any genre label is going to be hugely subjective (‘Caribbean’ and ‘singer/songwriter’ are not genres, ‘alternative’ is meaningless, and ‘Christmas: classical’ has clearly been invented for expedience) but at least I could be consistent by using the genres quoted for each album or single on one of the internet’s most popular streaming services. Don’t expect me to explain the difference between ‘electronic’, ‘electronica’ and ‘dance’ though.

The results then. In order, electronic, rock, jazz, pop and alternative are my top five genres. The obvious limits of genre descriptors aside, this top five is probably a fair reflection. What else do the results reveal? The incredibly broad ‘Rock’ category may suggest some heavy guitars to some. But there’s no metal – I could have told you that before. It’s an omission I’m proud of. ‘Hip-hop/Rap’ will likely come in higher than certain other Bastards would be expecting from me. The graph is nice and wide, and I like that – I don’t think I’m overly wedded to anything.

Yes it is a harmless question. And I’m no closer to giving you an easy answer, but now at least I can confidently back up ‘oh you know, a bit of everything’ with some evidence.

Words by James Spearing

One comment

  1. As a known music nerd among my friends and family and ancillary peoples, I’m often asked this sort of question. My stock reply has long been “I like anything done well.” Which usually makes the questioner say “Oooookay . . . . . ” and we move on to other things. But in the cases where there’s a push for more information, I then steer the conversation toward what constitutes “done well” when it comes to music, rather than honing in on any particular genre, artist, or group . . . .


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