Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)

Degree Level





Elizabeth Margulis

Committee Member

Joon Park

Second Committee Member

Kimberly Hannon-Teal


genre, music, musical genre, music perception, streaming platforms, music subgenre


The popular online streaming platform Spotify added over 1400 genre tags in the last two years. Despite that numerous artists and composition competitions claim to seek projects that “transcend the traditional notion of genre,” the industry has only added more complex and mystifying genre labels. This dichotomy between artists and industry ignores the effects these labels have on consumers. Do more complex genre tags enhance the listening experience for the average consumer by providing additional information about what they are about to hear? The current research seeks to examine the effects of the granularity of genre tags on popular music perception by identifying whether more nuanced subgenre genre tags increase enjoyment and understanding of popular music excerpts.

Participants heard four 20-second excerpts of popular music from four broad genre categories—including pop, country, rap/hip-hop, rock—as defined in Gjerdingen & Perrott, 2008 and Mace et al., 2011. Excerpts were presented simultaneously with two or three corresponding broad genre category tags or nuanced subgenre category tags in a randomized order. Participants used Likert-type scales to rate how well the genre tags matched the excerpt with which they were presented, how much they enjoyed the excerpt, and were asked to self-label each excerpt with a genre tag.

Results showed that ratings were significantly higher for the broad genre categories than the subgenre categories for both enjoyment and matching, (F(1, 2109.67) = 19.07, p < .001; F(1, 2109.38) = 56.47, p < .001), respectively. Further, participants did not self-label any of the excerpts with genre categories that were not previously attached to the respective stimuli. These results have practical implications for how music producers market popular music since broad genre categories appear to be adequate for conveying expectations for popular music.