Conundrum – Who is responsible for genres at Amazon on .mp3 albums?

Conundrum – Who is responsible for genres at Amazon on .mp3 albums?

Let me say at the outset, I love Amazon’s .mp3 “store”. My purchases there run something over I think ten pages, artists like Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, and the two discussed below, and everything in between. I am also an Amazon stockholder.

Some time ago, I purchased an .mp3 album, First Things First by Nadia Sirota, a phenom young violist, on New Amsterdam

First Things First

This is solo viola, best classified as Classical. But it was classified as “Alternative Rock”.

About this error, New Amsterdam said,

“From: Judd Greenstein []
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 3:17 PM
Subject: Re: Nadia Sirota “First Things First”
Hi Richard,
We didn’t make that assignment. It should have been listed as classical (obviously).
Thanks for bringing this to our attention and we’ll see what we can do.

Now, recently, I purchased another .mp3 album, Monkey King by Barry Schrader, on Innova

Monkey King

This album might best have been classified as electronic, maybe ambient. But it was classified as something like DJ Dance.

About this error, Innova said,

“From: Chris Campbell []
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 2009 9:56 AM
To: Richard Mitnick
Subject: [Monkey King] [subject edited, was “Re: Naxos]

Ah man.
I’ll Iook into the Schrader stuff and thanks for buying it. I hope you dig it.
Thanks very much Richard.
Best to you,
Chris Campbell
Operations Manager
innova recordings

In an email to another artist, I commented about the problem with Nadia’s album, laying the blame at the door of New Amsterdam. This artist came back and said,

“dear richard mitnick –
as someone who has had many running (and never resolved) problems with amazon I wouldn’t be too hard on new amsterdam….”

So, I went to Amazon with the question, who is responsible for genre classifications?

Their first reply was insufficient:


Thanks for letting us know about the error in the genres listed in the detail page for “Monkey King”, “First Things First.” We use many sources to build our website information, and we really appreciate knowing about any errors which find their way into our catalog. I’ll notify our catalog team about this and will ask them to correct the error….”

So I went back:

CUSTOMER: Richard Mitnick
COMM ID:yguaderg3479643228
COMMENTS: I received an inadequate reply to a complaint.

“Here, again, is my question:
Your Name:Richard S. Mitnick
Comments:I purchased mp3 albums by two artists. In both cases, the genres were very incorrect. I contacted the artists, who said they had no input in naming the genre. I contacted the producers of the music, who again said, not their call. That leaves, I believe, only Amazon.
The artists and albums were:
Nadia Sirota, “First Things First”, New Amsterdam, the genre given on the download was alt rock. The correct genre is classical.
Barry Schrader, “Monkey King”, The genre given was something like “DJ Dance”. The correct genre would have been either electronic or ambient.
A third composer, when I mentioned the New Amsterdam thing to him, commented that he had “Had trouble in this area with Amazon in the past”, but did not give me specifics of his problem.
I have purchased a fair amount of mp3 downloads from Amazon. I have had very little trouble. But this kind of thing should not be happening.
I will be discussing this situation in my weblog “Whither Public Radio and serious music” at I will be writing by the end of the week. I certainly could not accuse Amazon of any impropriety, and I would not – hey, I am a stockholder. But I certainly will raise the question.
So, I would like a response from Amazon on this two specific albums and this whole question of assigning genres.

And, finally their just received reply:

The content available in our Amazon MP3 Store is provided by record labels and their distributors. The agreements to provide this content were arranged with these companies. Any questions you have regarding content should be directed to the record label or distributor.
Thank you for your interest in Amazon MP3 Music Downloads.
Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:..”

So, what are we to think? It would seem to me that certainly the information should come from the record label. But I have the highest respect for the artist who said that I should not be too hard on New Amsterdam. I mean, you know, I have a great deal of respect for all of these organizations. New Amsterdam is an important part of the ‘New Music” scene, Innova is a huge resource for young artists and composers, and Amazon has been a wonderful provider of .mp3 albums, everything from the Partch and Nancarrow to Nadia and Barry.

I think that the only conclusion I can reach is to not take at face value what I see listed as a genre on a download, regardless of the source. Maybe the best thing would be to make this a really big problem by buying lots of new and wonderful music from New Music composers, especially on the Innova, New Amsterdam and Bang On A Can labels. Especially are they bringing to the public what will hopefully become the Classical Music of tomorrow.