Tips on How to Discover New Music

Adele's success has always bewildered me. I think she's talented and I like some of her songs but I don't get why her album 21 has sold a whopping 30 million copies and why her new album 25 will likely sell millions as well. This is at a time when, between piracy and streaming, even a big artist is lucky to get more than a few million album sales. Adele's music is standard adult contemporary soul and pop and similar artists don't experience such massive sales. Why her I wondered? A Billboard article provides what I believe is the answer:

"Even in the digital age, nothing else comes close to broadcast radio's influence. Sixty-one percent of people told Nielsen they discover new music through terrestrial radio...The next-most-cited discovery mechanism after radio was friends and relatives (45 percent), then movies (31 percent), audio or video streaming apps like YouTube (27 percent), social media apps (25 percent) and television (23 percent)."
-- While Radio Still Reigns, Concerts Are an Important Source of Music Discovery, says New Report,
Billboard.com

The methods most people use to discover new music and artists will mainly expose them to whatever's popular in the mainstream. Adele gets played on pop radio but she's quite unique on that format. She's a mainstream artist who seems more serious and thoughtful than many other pop radio acts. She can get 30 million in album sales despite not being any more critically acclaimed than many of her pop peers. One reviewer said Adele feels real:

"in a pop culture riddled with flamboyant fakery."

Another reviewer, when comparing Sia to Adele said:

"I feel that audiences will sadly end up dismissing Sia's very real appeal under the assertion that they're getting something more reserved and dignified [from Adele], where as I'd argue there's room for both."

Adele stands out as something unique and special in the mainstream but that's just a very narrow slice of the music that's being made today. Terrestrial radio, movies, TV, family and friends will mainly expose you to artists that are already in the mainstream or about to enjoy mainstream success. People depending on these sources will likely have a hard time finding new artists that appeal to them. So, how do you go about discovering artists that aren't played on major radio stations, or in popular movies and TV shows? These are some suggestions.

Pandora

Pandora is a free streaming music app that's a great music discovery tool. You can create stations for each artist you like and then Pandora will play songs from those artists but also similar artists. A nice feature is that you can create multiple stations and then shuffle them.

Streaming

There are multiple streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Rhapsody and Google Play All Access that typically cost $9.99 a month for access to millions of songs. Spotify has both free and paid versions. The free version comes with lower quality audio and some restrictions but it can be a great music discovery tool. You can use Spotify free to check out artists that you discover through other sources. If you pay for Spotify Premium they provide a playlist called Discover Weekly. Every Monday you'll get an updated playlist with recommendations based on your personal listening habits.

Lastfm

Lastfm.com is a website that will track the music you listen to. It will then recommend artists that are similar to what you enjoy. There's a feature that can connect to your Spotify account if you have one and play recommended artists. You can also search for artists you like and then check out similar artists.

Spotify's Discover Weekly will recommend new songs and artists based on what you've previously listened to
Spotify's Discover Weekly will recommend new songs and artists based on what you've previously listened to

Of course, all these music discovery methods may not introduce you to anything radically different from what you're already listening to. Maybe you think you don't like country music but perhaps there are some country artists out there that would appeal to you. How will you ever find them if you don't currently listen to any country acts? These are some good ways to move outside your comfort zone and discover something new.

YouTube critics review lessor known acts like EL VY

YouTube Album Reviewers

YouTube has some popular album reviewers like Spectrum Pulse, The Needle Drop and ARTV Reviews. If you have a YouTube account you can subscribe to them. If not, search for them in YouTube. These guys review both popular and less well known acts including indie acts or independent artists releasing through Bandcamp. I've discovered artists I like by watching reviews and then checking out a few tracks from the albums reviewed. I recommend the free version of Spotify to do this if you aren't subscribing to a streaming service. My favorite reviewer is Spectrum Pulse because I feel he does the most thorough reviews.

Streaming Playlists

Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have playlists based on genres or moods. You can check out an R&B or acoustic playlist. Or you can listen to mood boosters or songs for a rainy day.

CNET's Sarah Mitroff Prefers Spotify to Apple Music as a Music Discovery Tool

"As far as my experience goes, Apple Music's valiant effort to escort my music taste into new and exciting territory flopped hard. Instead I got trite listening recommendations of artists half of the world is familiar with (Beyonce, Elvis, Buddy Holly, to name a few.) Apple caters to a crowd that leans towards more mainstream tastes, who are looking for an easy way to introduce themselves to popular music they've yet to be exposed to.

If you like music, Apple Music will work just fine for your streaming needs. If you love music, Spotify does a better job at cultivating a community amongst your music listening friends and showing you a greater range of new music from artists you won't hear on Top 40 radio. Fellow music nerds, feel free to stick with Spotify for now."

Music Websites

Pick a website about music and peruse it regularly. Some popular music websites are Stereogum.com, Pitchfork.com, and Absolutepunk.net (despite it's name it isn't devoted to punk music). These websites will expose you to a lot of artists you've never heard of before.

8tracks

8tracks is both an app and a website. Anyone can sign up and make playlists based on themes. Some examples of themes are world music, Halloween, indie rock, autumn, heartbreak, calm, coffee shop and happy.

Radio Stations

Search for independent or college radio stations in your area. iTunes has genre radio stations. Look under Music to find the link to Radio.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp is a website devoted to independent artists. You can browse based on genre or staff picks. They also have a podcast Bandcamp Weekly.

Bandcamp lets you browse by genre for music made by independent artists
Bandcamp lets you browse by genre for music made by independent artists

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Comments 4 comments

spartucusjones profile image

spartucusjones 12 months ago from Parts Unknown

Great article. I do like Spotify's discover weekly. They do not always recommend new music, but quite often they recommend older cult artists that I either forgot about or really was not familiar with. Two other sites I like to use is NoiseTrade and Daytrotter. NoiseTrade is similar to Bandcamp, but the difference is all of the music is made available for free download but if you like what you hear you have the option of leaving a tip. Daytrotter is sessions recorded by mostly indie artists. Some of them are more well known like Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons, while others are more obscure.


Mike 12 months ago

I agree on Adele. She had 42% of all music sales for the week. There are lessor known artists out there making better music but getting few sales that would appeal to the same people buying Adeles stuff. I hope streaming opens more people up to more artist so those who don't get the support of pop and AC stations can have some deserved success.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 12 months ago from California Author

spartucusjones,

I love Discover Weekly but it can be hit and miss at times. Sometimes I'll love several of the songs and other times nothing catches my interest. Thanks for recommending NoiseTrade and Daytrotter. I hadn't heard of them before and they look interesting.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 12 months ago from California Author

Mike,

42% is crazy. I do hope too that streaming will give artists who don't have the backing of big radio stations a larger audience over time.

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