Some rambling thoughts…
I don’t generally agree with this point, but where it does make sense is in how it impacts your release schedule.
If you’re splitting your output across multiple genres/accounts/identities, then the release frequency for each is likely to be lower.
Release frequency is an increasingly important factor in building an audience.
It doesn’t have to be fortnightly (though some do), but it’s certainly better to be pushing out a steady flow of (quality) material rather than long spells of silence (guilty as charged).
Listeners simply forget about you and audiences grow veeery slowly.
The counterpoint to that is that you increase the chances of your tracks being hit n miss. Those who found you via a house banger might not like your neo-soul or modern classical pieces*, resulting in a less dedicated audience. And no-one’s gonna love you more for sticking a Country & Western track in the middle of your EDM release.
It’s not just an audience numbers game. Depth of engagement per listener is an important factor too.
It’s possible to build a following around a somewhat diverse output, but they often take more time and skill to build than an audience consisting of genre fans.
I can think of very few artists who have built audiences that way.
It’s more common to shift in phases, which often means that an artist’s/band’s sound evolves across the span of several albums.
Radiohead is a great example of how to mess around with genres and styles. (The consistency is in the writing and composition.)
They do it gradually and, for the most part, manage to bring their existing audience along with them - if anything, bringing in new listeners and deepening their stature as great musicians.
I’m not a fan, but props to Coldplay too, who are also managing to play with different styles while building, rather than alienating, their listeners.
But, again, it’s an album-to-album change, rather than an album of diverse styles.
All the evidence suggests it’s easier to build an audience by sticking reasonably closely to a specific genre (though ‘Pop’ fans may actually be the most accepting.)
The more successful you become, the harder it becomes to deviate from audience expectations.
Finding an effective balance might come down to allowing in influences from various genres, rather than producing ‘authentic’ tracks in a variety of genres (that would readily appeal to genre purists) - while keeping a consistent thread running throughout, whether that’s mood, structure, sound palette, production style, or, ideally, a unique combination of all of those.
To counter my own argument…
As music listening becomes more single-oriented, especially with the rising importance of playlists, perhaps now is the time for multi-genre musical artists to thrive.
Perhaps now is the time we’ll start seeing the traditional genre bounds of artists breaking down and becoming less relevant.
(Note: the album isn’t dead yet.)
* I’ve gone (am going) for the multiple identities approach (four and counting) because I’m doubtful that moody IDM + indie vocal synth-pop + retro jazz-funk + synthwave(y) + club-oriented house is a winning combination.
I’m still trying to figure out where half my stuff fit best and has the best chance of gaining traction.
Though, I still love the idea of releasing multiple styles and genres and being accepted and successful - and having an audience go with me on the journey - and to be seen as a creative, musical person, rather than a [insert music genre] artist.
But then, maybe what I need to aim for is a YouTube channel (à la Huang, but with credibility and aimed at more discerning music fans), rather than aiming for traction as a release artist.
Apologies for the epic.
Blame @TheRealJFalc for summoning me via mystical incantation.
Careful what you wish for.