Over the last couple of weeks, quite a few people have independently asked me: How do you find music?
The answer, of course, is: everywhere.
It’s not hard these days to find new music. What is harder is to cut through the noise - this is one of the reasons I started HotSpotMusic and that’s merely a very basic layer of aggregation and filtering, one or two degrees below the surface. Even more importantly, perhaps, is finding and dedicating time to do so. Gone are the days when I’d spend hours every night reading music blogs to keep on top of all the new bands doing the rounds but there are a number of sources.
So, in case you’re after some new sources of inspiration, here’s a few ideas:
Since I don’t have time for all the blogs, aggregators are a great way to zip through some of the things that they are posting. There’s two levels of aggregation - the first is the blog radio style where I can follow different bloggers or people and see what they post. The classic example of this is the Hype Machine which is just as strong as it was 5 years ago, the more emergent (but iPad-compatible) Shuffler.fm and the music jukebox in the sky that is ex.fm (which also handily picks up posts from your Tumblr and all around the web).
The other is review aggregators that aren’t necessarily following hot tracks but reviews from established outlets and trying to gauge the consensus of the critical elite. My favourites here are AnyDecentMusic (which has a UK-lean) & Metacritic (which has a US-lean). AnyDecentMusic, in particular, seems to go to extreme lengths to find new content and help augment its charts. The charts themselves are usually pretty representative of the current climate and ADM is therefore my go-to place when I feel like I’ve been out of it for a few weeks.
Okay… this is my favourite mode of music discovery: the random walk. Or, as it’s known in the modern age, the Wikipedia effect. Starting with something I know, I’ll endlessly browse through related artists, inspirations, offshoots, label mates and connected genres. Somewhere along the way I always run into something fantastic that I’ve never heard before. The best place to do this is (still) All Music with its encyclopedic detail of music history and, let’s be fair, taste. But this works equally well on Spotify’s related artists, Last.fm’s recommendations or tag browsing or even Amazon.
The flipside to this is randomised discovery via radio-mode on Spotify, Last.fm et al (Pandora being a big one that’s not available here in Germany). I should state for the record that I hate the shuffle function. So I don’t often use radio mode, but when I do I rarely remember the names of the artists featured. Shuffle mode is background music, it’s lazy mode and that’s why I don’t recommend it for real music discovery (also the algorithm’s are generally quite ineffective for unearthing new stuff, see 8tracks below).
Email / Newsletters
Most of the services I’ve mentioned here will do their own newsletters (and a particular shout out for the weekly album rundown by ADM & AMG as two of the best) and band/label mailing lists help too (if a little unwieldy to manage). Rough Trade also do a great weekly roundup (the website claims it’s ‘World Famous’) and their ability to pick new music is impeccable. The final one I use is a hack that someone put together called soundamus which looks at your last.fm history and tells you if there are any new records by those artists. Another handy reminder.
Podcasts / Radio
Today I listen to a lot more radio than I did a year ago thanks to digital radio through my iPhone. That means I’m able to enjoy 6music all the time (but particularly pre- and post-sleep and particularly when Gideon Coe is on). When I’m not listening live, I love a good podcast and some of my favourites here are:
- NPR’s All Songs Considered
- WBEZ’s Sound Opinions
- The Guardian’s Music Weekly
- Others include The Line Of Best Fit, Indie Feed, Hype Machine Radio
Daytrotter isn’t technically a radio station but they have an immense amount of great sessions (hidden behind a paywall) and there’s always something new and great there.
- Tumblr has a great network of music lovers who are continually sharing music, new and old alike. I’m always finding new tunes from folk like David, Kirk, Mark & Fred.
- SoundCloud - I follow hundreds of bands, labels, blogs and friends here who are posting and curating new music 24/7. Discovery happens entirely through this social feed and it’s now at the stage that most of the acts I search for have a profile too.
- Twitter - Obviously there’s a ton of artists out there on Twitter but the source that remains the most fruitful for me is the little community of Spotify-related users I have been unofficially inducted into through HotSpotMusic’s earlier days.
- This Is My Jam - a new-ish site that I’m just getting into (thanks to their new Spotify app), allowing you to post one “jam” at a time.
- 8tracks is a site that I care a lot for and yet one I don’t spend nearly enough time on. Human curators making playlists is simply the best way to find music and trumps any machine making automated guesses at what you might like.
So, even though I don’t have that much time to read blogs any more there are still a number that I consistently look at and rely upon. Below are a couple of my favourites and here’s a link to all of them (and some of the ones mentioned above) in Google Reader.
- Drowned In Sound
- Pitchfork & Stereogum
- The Line Of Best Fit
- I Guess I’m Floating, Gorilla Vs Bear & You Ain’t No Picasso
So there you go, that’s how I do it. Or at least 50% of it.
How do you find music?