Have you heard that filthy new catstep track? What are your views on cutting-edge crustpunk? Are you a deep discofox fan, a lowercase aficionado, or a skwee enthusiast. WHITHER MEDIEVAL ROCK?

These are all real musical genres. At least, streaming service Spotify claims they are. They’re among the genres featured in its Insights team’s latest blog post: 50 Genres with the Strangest Names on Spotify, culled from its data.

Hence deep discofox (“A goofily earnest genre featuring slick techno-disco and the occasional video”); lowercase (“extreme ambient minimalist music… very quiet sounds, such as ruffling of papers, and amplifies them to an extreme volume”); solipsynthm (“solo laptop experimentalists” – NOT a euphemism) and other micro-genres.

This is more than just promotion for Spotify’s long musical tail. There’s a serious point here about the way that digital-music metadata – not to mention information on how it’s listened to – can spawn new genres in the blink of an eye.

“When you build a system for classifying music that reacts to cultural and acoustic information, some fairly strange-sounding clusters of music appear. These genres emerge based on how it sounds, how people describe music, and how they listen to it,” is how Spotify explained it. “These are the secret rain forest dwellers and deep undersea creatures of the genre world.”

We’ve heard similar sentiments from other streaming services. SoundCloud, for example. “We have a goldmine of data. It’s real-time, relevant data: basically the latest trends in everything, including genres that emerge from nowhere and then get built on SoundCloud,” co-founder Eric Wahlforss told Music Ally in June 2014.

“There was witch-hop, of course, and then mermaid. And I’ve created a brand new genre called churchstep…”

Interestingly, none of those three genres are anywhere to be found on Spotify’s full list of the 1,370 genres found on its service, sorted by familiarity. The lowest reaches of which provide fertile starting points for exploring, say, deep deep tech house; porro; luk thung or barnmusik.

This is the world of streaming, where tens of millions of listeners and the resulting big data are capable of surfacing new genres – not just new tracks or artists.

For another example, look to analysis recently that showed that “environmental / sleep / relaxative” was the most popular category on Spotify in terms of new albums being released, with 282 in a single week.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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