Note: Falsehoods programmers believe about music genres

Nov 11, 2022

ID3 tags are the way metadata is attached to mp3 files. One field they allow you to define is the “genre” of a track. Hilariously, rather than making this a text filed, genre was expressed as… an integer between 0 and 255. This meant the whole of human music would need to be neatly subdivided into no more than 256 genres. What’s more, there was no standards body managing it, so whoever shipped a popular player which assigned these values a name, basically got to assign values in this narrow space unilaterally.

For example, values 142-191 were defined by Winamp developers.

Predictably this ended up with results that range from hilarious to horrible. Here are a few that made the cut and thus got enshrined:

  • 178 Shoegaze

  • 167 Industro-Goth

  • 136 Christian Gangsta Rap

  • 130 Terror

  • 109 Porn groove

  • 107 Booty Bass

  • 48 Ethnic

  • 108 Primus

  • 133 Negerpunk

  • 169 Krautrock

  • 170 Leftfield


(The tile of this post is a play on Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names)

Tags: annecdote