12 Most Splendid Sources for Music Discovery
The top of the charts can be an enjoyable source of music to enjoy, but sometimes you just want to listen to something new. You want to try a new genre, or find the brilliant indie players in a genre you know and like.
There has never been a better time than now for people who want to wander the amazing, vast landscape of music discovery. However, you’ll need some resources to start you on your way. Here are 12 sources that should keep you engaged for a good, long listen.
1. Streaming sites
There are a fair number of sites already for finding music. More seem to crop up all the time, and some die off (Napster suffered a few blows before joining Rhapsody, for example). The current crop of the most popular sites to stream music includes Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark, MOG, and Last.fm. There are many more — some of them require a download of their software (Spotify, for example); some have web portals that you can listen to from any browser. Some have mobile apps; more on that below.
2. Music subscription sites
Like streaming sites, but with a different access structure and for a fee. Rhapsody is the biggest of the subscription-only sites. Rdio has a free limited streaming offer, but the majority of its plans are subscriptions for a fee. Several sites, such as Spotify, MOG, and Pandora, offer both free streaming and subscription models.
3. Internet radio stations
This category can get a little blurry. There are sites that belong to broadcast radio stations as their online presence, and there are sites that stream songs “radio style” that you might influence with your preferences but in which you cannot dictate the playlist (see Pandora). “Internet-only” stations such as East Village Radio of New York City fit the bill here. There is no shortage of choices, such as indie WFMU, Pop Garden Radio, or Radio Disney. No matter where you are, you can get online stations somewhere else, even from Canada or Colombia.
4. Regular radio broadcasts
Ah, the airwaves! This was the place most of us did our “music discovery” back when we were young. Big commercial stations aren’t the place you’ll really find what’s new today, but smaller, scrappy and enthusiastic stations often have passionate DJs who will bring what’s best to the forefront. One shining example among many: Seattle’s KEXP.org (both airwave and Internet). For the airwave broadcasts you will, of course, need to be in range. Sometimes you’ll need to find a local station’s place on your dial by poking around online for call numbers; sometimes you’ll just need to check the far ranges of your tuner to bring in a clear and pleasing song.
5. Musician-powered/DIY sites
The artists are the force behind these sites. Bandcamp is one that several indie musicians I know of recommend; apparently the pay structure when you buy music is favorable to the artist there. You can search Bandcamp by artist, track, album, or lyric; or browse by genre or location (find local music!) ReverbNation also has search and browse functions for artists by genre, location, popularity and much more, and offers ReverbRadio to let the new music come to you — plenty of tools for both fans and artists on this site. SoundCloud seems useful because sharing your finds with friends seems particularly easy. More recently, Google+ pages for bands launched (see this article on DIY/CDBaby about G+), as well as Google Music; we’ll need to see where this is going, but the mighty power of Google means it automatically receives more notice at the outset.
This takes a little more work than a simple click to one location. You can get started plenty of sites that handle all areas of new music, such as Stereogum and Pitchfork. But, oh, the specialization you’ll find! For power pop alone, I came up with 12 Most Groovy Power Pop Websites! You can search everything from Metal to Bubblegum to suit your fancy.
7. Magazines (both print and online)
‘Zines were, while I was younger, everything from national full-color spreads to scrappy local mimeographed(!) startups. The more it changes, the more it stays the same — just add Internet. You can check out all sorts of music magazines online: Rolling Stone, Blitz, Shindig, Paste, and Filter, to name a few. Do you want to hold onto a real paper copy instead? Either subscribe online or look for something a little less mainstream at your local bookseller or music shop (see number 9).
Most of the sources above have music on their sites, but several also offer apps. Here are two examples of apps from widely divergent sources: First, eMusic, an online music retailer, also has eMusic Radio, offering streaming playlists to their members that are curated by human beings rather than an algorithm. The second example is from good old Rolling Stone Magazine, but with a new twist; their online magazine as mentioned above has rich resources, but the Rolling Stone mobile app partners with Spotify to offer yet another source of music and info. The number of Spotify app partners is growing even as this article is written (including entries from a number of sources previously mentioned). And no less a luminary than Sting tells us that apps are the new CDs, too. The story of apps is evolving, no doubt.
9. Music shops
Remember music shops? The legend of the music shop geek who knows all the new stuff and all the history can often be true! Make use of these people as the oral historians and human “recommendation engines” that they can be for all they’re worth. Find one in your area, and get schooled!
10. Retail reviews
Sites like Amazon and iTunes (and plenty of other, smaller retailers) have a wealth of crowdsourced information on new music. Start at an album you like, read some reviews and start clicking on recommendations or “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” and you’ll be heading toward something new to enjoy. Addendum: YouTube artist channels can be mined in the same way. Start with what you like, and look to the side bar of recommendations until you start scoring some hits.
11. Your social network (virtual version)
Feeling bored with your tunes? Throw out a plea for new sounds in your status update, and you never know what gem you may receive in return.
12. Your social network (real-life version)
You know, people you actually see face to face? In the “olden days,” we used to hang around and talk about the music we’d found. Happily, many people still do! Have your friends over for a pot luck dinner and music discussion if you’re feeling sociable, or just bring up new music at some gathering that was going to happen anyway.
New sources are popping up all the time; some the sources mentioned here are likely cover the innovations. You don’t need to completely cover every new music discovery source; you only need to fish around until you catch some new sounds that you enjoy.
All kinds of music are waiting to be discovered — go out and find something brilliant!
Featured image courtesy of Free Images Live.