How do you find new music?

Losing Touch

In a few months I’ll be turning 29. That’s old. I don’t care though, I like growing older. I don’t want to be back in school without money to buy new computers, etc. If you’re doing things right, things should generally get better as you get older, in my opinion. But growing older sometimes makes it harder to stay current with how things work. Last week I put a new MP3 disc together to listen to in my car and realised that it’s pretty much the same stuff I’ve been listening too… forever. I also realised that besides the same old stuff they play on the radio, I don’t really know any new music or artists from 2010. How did this happen? Having seen so many people grow more stale and clueless as they get older, I promised myself that it would never happen to me. I decided to do some investigation.

Last.fm

This is the first site I turned to. I’m not a very active user on the site, but I know it has a big community and lots of people scrobble their songs to it. They have a top 40 of most scrobbled artists of 2010. Out of that top 40 list I only know 12 or so of the artists well or well enough to recognise them, and around 7 of them I either have just heard of or know that I don’t particularly like them. That means that that I know less than half of the music that people have been listening to this year. Eek. I went ahead and downloaded the latest albums I’ve never heard of via bittorrent. If I’ll like it I’ll go buy the album, if not I’ll just delete it. That’s how I roll, deal with it you stupid Americans.

Last.fm playground also has a list of the most unwanted scrobbles for the year. It was amusing to see how dominated it is by Lady Gaga. I don’t mind her though, while I admit that she is often over the top, I’m not afraid to say that I listen to her and enjoy some of her music. She’s one of the few artists today not ashamed to fly the freak flag and she has some very good ideas.

The playground also has a chart that lists whether the music you’re listening to is closer to what males or females would typically listen to and the age range that you fall into. This isn’t entirely accurate since I haven’t been scrobbling all my devices (some, like my car CD player, doesn’t have the capability). My results lean to the male side (shew that’s close), I was quite surprised that The Beatles, Good Charlotte and Panic! At The Disco and Violent Femmes have more female listeners, but that’s not at all a bad thing and I’m not complaining. My scrobbled music puts me in an age group of around 22 years old and I’m ok with that. The chart range is from 22-30, I guess you also have to take the average last.fm user age into account.

There are many tools available on that site, some more useful than others. I’ll certainly be making more use of Last.fm in the future. It might be interesting being able to compare my musical tastes with past versions of myself as I get older.

And then?

Well, I already found more music that I could listen to over the next 2-3 months, and have looked at a bunch of blog posts with titles such as “Top 25 Albums of 2010“, etc to see if there’s something that I missed, but the problem with those kind of lists are that they usually just list all the stuff that’s being over-marketed and played on every radio station anyway. That’s also not a great way to get to know music, because you’ll only discover artists way after they’ve become popular. Nothing wrong with being on the trailing edge though, it’s just not where I want to be, and besides, I want to get to know a lot of lesser-know artists that are really good too.

So if anyone’s reading this and have some tips that they can share, please do so!

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18 Responses

  1. Yann says:

    You *do* realize that good music and music on top of the charts rarely match right? :)

  2. Randall says:

    Allmusic! Just type in your favourite artists and you’ll find similar artists, who influenced them, and who they influenced. It’s like a musical “family tree”. Enjoy!

    Do check out Klaxons :) http://allmusic.com/artist/klaxons-p830101

  3. Vincent says:

    Good music is always subjective of course.

    I keep track of Jamendo’s blog, which often contains good music, and sometimes when I find a new genre I check out what Jamendo has to offer. Apart from that I check what friends with similar music styles like, and sometimes just go check all the albums by artists that I like but haven’t fully investigated yet.

    I also use Last.fm’s Similar Tracks and Similar Artists feature, which I built in to a media player I wrote. Thus when I think of a single song I like, I can often click together a whole playlist of songs I’m in the mood for at the moment.

  4. Seung Soo, Ha says:

    I used too find music somewhat similiarly to what you’ve described in the article.

    Nowadays, I’ve become more or less passive, with the radio and TV drama theme song/background music becoming my main source of discovery.

  5. Mike says:

    Try blip.fm It’s kind of a musical twitter site. Very cool!

  6. Eugenia says:

    I was on the same boat as you, so please let me tell you of my story.

    I’m 37. Last year, at age 36, I got fed up with alternative rock music (Killers, Red Hot CP, etc). I think the tipping point was Muse’s then-new album that sounded like a cheesy, over the top version of Queen. Also, the fact that RIAA was getting on my nerves. So, I embarked towards listening what’s NEW music, with all the meaning of the word “new”. New genres, new ways or song-writing.

    So, obviously, I had to stumble on what hipsters were listening to. As much as we all love to hate hipsters, the truth is, just like in the early ’50s when rock’n’roll emerged, they are the ones who do listen to the kind of music that will define what will be played 10 or 20 years down the road on the radio. Their music is usually laughed at because it’s simply so far out, that we don’t get it yet. I was fast to pull the trigger and blog about how Animal Collective suck goats, how boring Grizzly Bear were — and how hipster music is all stupid.

    Fast forward a year later, and let me tell you that I CAN NOT listen to “commercial” music anymore. When I listen to radio pop, rock, hip-hop music, I want to cover my ears. I find that music is SIMPLY constructed, so shallow, so old, that it creates a face grimace on me, without me realizing it.

    The amazing thing in all this is that I managed to make my husband think this way too. Think about it: a metal-head, Metallica & Iron Maiden fan for 20+ years, and I was able to destroy most of his appreciation for “adult alternative” rock music within a few months. He used to even listen to that emo teen rock stuff, he now can’t anymore. And for most of pop, he finds it generic now. Of course, he still loves Nirvana and Metallica and Maiden, but all the “bottom” of the pile kind of rock has disappeared from his rotation.

    The way I did all this though was by spending UP to 2 hours a day finding “new” music on the sites that report about such music. These includes: Pitchfork, Stereogum, BetterPropaganda, RCRDLBL, KEXP Blog etc. These sites provide LEGALLY free daily mp3s, carefully selected about what’s the next big thing in music. But as I said, it takes 1-2 hours a day to go through all their articles and preview the mp3s, and if you like them download them, fix the tags, and then import to the media player. Long process, but it paid off in my case, because I was determined to do this.

    Using Last.FM or Pandora, will only give you what was cool last year I’m afraid. And only what sheep listen to anyway. Not free thinkers who try to PUSH the limits of music. You’ll have to go to the respectable music news sites to get what’s current now. *Progress* is what driven all of us towards Linux and Free Software too, so the same logic applies for music too.

    Of course, to try to appreciate that kind of music, you will need bands that will help you transition. For example, if you try to listen to Animal Collective immediately after listening some formulaic alternative rock, you will hate them. So you need some bands to introduce you to different vibes. Preview the following on Pandora or Last.fm or iTunes, I’m also mentioning their best songs:

    Washed Out – New Theory, Feel it All Around
    Paper Route – Tiger Teeth, Carousel
    Yppah – Again with the subtitles
    Yeasayer – Madder red, 2080
    The XX – Intro
    Wye Oak – Civilian, Take it In
    Wiretree – Make things happen, big coat
    Wild Nothing – Confirmation, Chinatown
    We are wolves – Fight & Kiss, blue
    Beach House- Norway

    And that’s just from the bottom of my iPod (mostly W to Z). The trick is to actually sit down on the couch and LISTEN to these songs. My husband could not get used to them unless he was not concerned with work. He found them distracting because they were different. Only when he gave them a real listen he began to appreciate them. For example, the last song on the list, “Norway”, I made fun on Twitter about it last year, when I wrote that I should donate to the band some money, so they can fix their broken keyboards! I found their “off” sound so weird and inappropriate for a melodic music. And yet, after about 5 listens, it became my FAVORITE song of 2010. A 180 degree change!

    Email me if you need more suggestions or to discuss them. BTW, I will be blogging tonight about Linux and Education, if you wanna have a look.

  7. Eugenia says:

    Oh, one more. This one is from Soft Moon, a very new Bay Area artist. IMHO, his new album is one of my top-3 in 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9t8Oex9BpQ&hd=1

  8. Ronan says:

    All these online services are cool (I use last.fm), but the best recommendation engine is an afternoon with one friend exchanging music at home.

  9. dharmamarx says:

    Try the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop poll: http://www.villagevoice.com/pazznjop/

    Every year the Village Voice compiles the top ten lists of music critics around the country and adds them up. The top 15 albums or so on the list tend to have been pretty heavily hyped (though if you look in the poll’s archives, you’ll see most of the classic albums of the eighties and nineties made it into the top of the list); the bottom section of the list tends to have more obscure artists.

  10. Ron says:

    I think that regardless of how you obtain your music, legally or otherwise, it doesn’t provide an excuse to insult all Americans. As an American who worked in the music industry on the professional level for many years, I can say that I can see both sides of the coin, but that is not the point of my post…. my point is that to single out all Americans as “stupid” is bigotry and a gross over-generalization.

    While it is your opinion that Americans are stupid, it is a fact that you are a bigot.

  11. jonathan says:

    @Yann Yeah, and yet they all pretty much contain the same boring artists I hear over and over on the radio ;)

    @Mike Thanks for the blip.fm recomendation! It’s great!

    @Eugenia wow, thanks for that comment, very informative, I also read a bunch of your blog posts, will probably stay in touch!

    Otherwise thanks to eveyrone for the tips!

  12. seeker5528 says:

    For Last FM, assuming you have scrobbled enough stuff and banned stuff you never want to hear again, maybe removed other things from you library that you don’t necessarily want to ban, but don’t want affecting your stats either….

    There is a ‘recommended artist’ feature on the home page when you are logged in, that changes as you scrobble different stuff.

    Every artist page as a list of “similar” artists, so if you go through that list or listen to the artist radio you can find stuff that way.

    Go through you list of neighbors to see what they are listening too, what tags they are using, listen to their library, etc…

    I have not used it much but there is something interesting in the playground that recommends artists but is different than ‘recommended artist’ feature on the home page.

    http://playground.last.fm/demo/directrecs

    Go to the tag pages of tags that sound interesting to you, there are stats for tracks tagged with a tag, a listing of some of the freely downloadable tracks that have been tagged with that tag, etc…

    http://www.last.fm/tag/theyre%20coming%20to%20take%20me%20away%20hehee

    Find groups that sound interesting to you and listen to the group radio. Read the group forums, maybe even join the group.

    http://www.last.fm/community/groups

    Then there are other places I might randomly search and listen to some stuff…..

    http://www.besonic.com

    http://www.ilike.com/garageband

    Haven’t been to GarageBand since they merged with iLike, that may have screwed things up, looks like it still accepts my login though.

    Later, Seeker

  13. Robert says:

    I do not mean to advertise; but have you tried online music stations such as chronix radio (may fit your music tastes from above chart)? Internet radio has always been a good source of new music for me as it tends not to follow the marketing trends; I do admit patience is a virtue in this respect.

  14. Gustav Ruthgård says:

    You don’t know about spotify?

  15. jonathan says:

    @Gustav I meant to look at Spotify earlier this year, but it’s very limited to the amount of countries it works in. It doesn’t even work in Canada or South Africa, which doesn’t really make it a great option for me. Looks nice though.

  16. Eugenia says:

    Did you try the songs I linked for you? How did you find them?

  17. jonathan says:

    Hey Eugenia, I downloaded some of them, but haven’t listened to it yet (had a cold over new years which left my just sleeping mostly!). Listening to The xx now, so far so good :)

  18. Hey Jonathan,
    I’ve been questioning lots of these ‘new’ sites too as a musician, do they help me or not. Then I was trying to figure out how and where non-musicians go to find music. I too like to hear new people before they go mainstream. Anyway, I decided to start my own radio station, that promotes new artists. I’m just getting started, hoping to launch later in Jan ’11. I know there’s tons of internet radio. I’m just coming at it from a musician’s percpective in what can help artists, and bring great new stuff to listeners faster than mainstream seems to do. Anyway if you have a chance to check it out http://www.cachradio.com – Cheers and all the best!

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