To discover new music is not always simple and easy. It takes time and effort for the music lover to find those gems. I am an avid listener of music and yet only scratch the surface of new music released each week. Given time constraints, I can only manage about twenty releases per week and then curate from that point. To some extent, what I listen to is based upon my past purchases and past music listening. There are some tried and true methods for curating new music releases.
My music listening began with KKDG 105.9, a traditional album-orientated radio station in Fresno. In 1982 the radio ratings service Arbitron reported KKDJ as having the largest market share ever in the history of California radio and it still holds that record today.
Back then, I visited Tower Records on Blackstone (the old location between Shaw/Barstow) on Tuesday afternoons. For decades, all new music was released on Tuesdays, but even that was changed to Fridays. My first official purchase was just before my 14th birthday when my dad drove me to Tower and I bought Ghost in the Machine by The Police. I saw The Police live on September 11, 1983 at Ratcliffe Stadium located on the Fresno City College campus. The opening acts were Thompson Twins, Oingo Boingo, and The Fixx – not all particularly popular at the time. And what a lifetime ago!
The 6 Methods
Finding new music means listening to new music.
Every Friday I browse all the new releases on Apple Music and add anything that looks interesting to my weekly playlist. This is often based on (a) prior knowledge of the artist, (b) genre category, and (c) album artwork. I then spend some time in the coming days giving each a listen or two. Sometime the first song alone says “yes” or “no”. If it’s a no, then I delete right away and not be bothered with it any further. In addition, I also listen to a number of podcasts that feature new music. My favorites are Hypnagogue and KEXP Music that Matters. I inevitably identify a one or two new artists per episode. My other go-to places are Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
Finding new music means reading about music.
My first avenue is my RSS feed (currently self-hosted using Fever°) where I’ve collected websites that have proven useful in learning about new music. In addition to artist sites, my favorite writers on music come for The Quietus, Who the Hell, and Pitchfork. In addition to the feeds, I also receive a newsletter from bleep.com, a UK-based distributor, every week. They focus primarily on ambient, electronica, and dance. Reading can also include mainstream sources like the New York Times or the LA Times. These all provide a doorway into music that I might never hear of otherwise. Taking their suggestions, I switch over to Apple Music and add songs and albums to my playlist.
Finding new music means reading liner notes.
The digital age makes this a bit challenging because it may mean visiting the artist site directly to learn who plays on the album and who produced or engineered the album. One of the reasons I still buy records is to get all the notes and track information (and virtually all new albums come with a digital download). Why read the liner notes? Maybe there’s a guitar player or drummer that I like. Or perhaps the producer or engineer has made music that I’ve liked in the past. For example, I’ll buy almost anything produced by Daniel Lanois. It’s truly amazing what you can learn from liner notes. Readers can gain true insight into the mind and music of the musicians.
Finding new music means going to see live music.
Between 1981 and the present, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to witnessed more than 1,400 bands. As you may know, most bands travel with an opening act or two. Often these are unknown or up-and-coming bands. This is a great resource! For example, when I went to the Broken Bells at the Music Box in Los Angeles, the opening act was The Morning Benders whom I found to be skilled performers, friendly (I met them at the t-shirt stand), and they created very pleasant music. I bought the album that night!
Finding new music means having others who are passionate about music.
For many years, I had a “music friend” whom we would trade off on what we’ve discovered and what we are appreciating. We lived in different cities and different primary genres of music and this supported broadening both our music collections. Get a friend, or more than one.
Finding new music means paying for music.
In the age of music streaming, there is no reason to not explore new music. If you subscribe to a service like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, or Pandora then dig into the new music sections of those services. You won’t be disappointed. If you like an artist you find on a streaming service, then make an effort to buy the track or album. Support the artists directly by visiting their website, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud channel and buy direct. It’s important for musicians to get paid for being creative and the new music continue to be offered and to allow musicians to grow. In addition to the Apple Music service, I continue to pay and download complete albums and I continue to buy records in their analog form.
If you get confused just listen to the music play.