Twenty years ago, cookbooks were cookbooks. Almanacs were almanacs. There were no thrillers that were also coming-of-age diet books.
Twenty years ago, jazz was jazz and polka was polka. Jazz polka wasn't really a thing.
The reason is simple: The publisher of the work needed to get it to the store, the store needed to put it on a shelf and the consumer had to find it. Most of the time, publishers would push back (hard) on creators to make sure that the thing they created fit into a category. No category, no shelf space. No shelf space, no sale.
In our long tail, self published, digital world, there is of course infinite shelf space. And there is no retailer that needs to be sold, because since there's no shelf space issue, they will carry everything.
As a result of no one pushing back on the self-published writer or musician, there's a huge blurring going on. The design of websites, for example, is all over the map in ways that magazines and books never were.
Quantum theory posits that an electron is either here or there. Not in between. And for a long time, content was pushed into quantum buckets. But the shift to digital has blurred all of that.
Except that the consumer of content still thinks in terms of buckets. She's judging your podcast in the first eight seconds, "what does this remind me of?" She's searching for famous names, scanning the bestseller list, moving sideways within a category.
Yes, of course we need your post-categorization genius. We need you to blend and leap and integrate new styles to create new forms.
But while you're busy not being pigeonholed, don't forget that we pigeonhole for a reason. And if it's too difficult to figure out how to pay attention to you, we'll decide to ignore you instead.
Make your magic, and make it easy for us to figure out…
What is this thing?
What does it remind me of?
Do people like me like stuff like this?