Confession: For far longer than I care to admit… I’ve been living in fear. Fear of being asked the question: What’s your favorite band? Or even, what type of music are you into? (And honestly, only once in recent months have I been asked either of these—by a guy trying to “get to know me” at a coffee shop—to which I didn’t feel quite as embarrassed when I had to answer, I don’t know. Instant conversation-ender.) But really, I don’t have an answer to these questions, and I don’t like it.
It’s not that I don’t like music or that I don’t listen to it. There’s just a reason you’ll find other contributors (including our founder Joy who is a musician herself) using their music knowledge to bring you the LISTEN category at the top of this website, in the upcoming weeks—not me. Until recently, I just had no clue how to discover music.
When I was younger, music was a big part of my life. There were so many artists—who I’d probably not admit to falling utterly in love with now (oh, early to mid 2000s, what a nostalgic place you hold in my heart)—that I listened to over and over and over again, because I truly felt them in every part of my body, mind, and soul.
But over the years, and being one who never cared much for what was on the radio, and not big on trends, I have to admit that somewhere along the way, I lost my enthusiasm (and talent) for discovery. The handful of artists that I hold dear to me get ample air time, as I just kind of got lazy and uninspired to venture from their track onto someone else’s.
One day the idea came to me for an article that inspired people to discover some of the amazing sounds around them—I know they’re out there—and I resolved to use it as sort of a prompt for my own life. So for all you curious as to how to discover music with not much to go off of, here’s what I learned you can do:
Start a song radio with your favorite song
Most internet radios, from Spotify to Pandora and more, have song radio as an option. For a while, I would only listen to artist radio. Let me tell you, there’s a difference! Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like artist radios tend to replay the same four artists over and over again—including, of course, the one you started with. This is great for hearing the same ol’, but not so great for exploration. The great thing about song radio is that you still hear some of your old faves but for the most part, you’re turned onto new tracks.
Use Spotify to find related artists and jump around
I generally listen to music via Spotify, which was created to be more of a discovery tool than simply internet radio. Of course, it took me years before I started using it for that reason! Recently a friend told me his method, which is through that ever-so-obvious Related Artists tab. But the trick is to bounce around among the artists featured. Here’s how you do it: pick an artist who’s sound you enjoy listening to—I listen to music in a variety of genres, so it’s helpful for me just to think of an individual who’s had a few singles I was particularly moved by, and go from there—and look for their related artists. It’ll bring up 20+ artists. Click on one and listen to their top songs. If you’re not into them, go back and choose a different artist. If you’re not sure, listen to a few lesser known songs and make a decision. If you end up liking them, be sure to favorite or save them, and then start looking at their related artists.
(It seems super time consuming but can totally be done while doing other things, such as writing a blog post!)
When I did this, I ended up finding a few artists I loved right away, and the interesting thing was that some of them weren’t similar at all to the artist I began with. I was able to get out of my rut of the same 3 or 4 bands.
Google (and write down) everything you hear
I frequent a lot of coffee shops, and for years it would be the case that I’d leave a place after hanging out on my laptop for an hour or two, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you even one song I heard. The cool thing about cafes is that each have their own vibe. I tend to gravitate toward music that’s not too intrusive so as to distract me, but not so mellow that I fall asleep right there over my coffee. The last few weeks, I’ve made it a point to really listen to this “background music.” Because it might not just be background material, but a new favorite sound! If you go this route, be sure to ask your baristas about the music (or even what station/playlist they use so you can discover at home), or be ready to Google a few lyrics so you don’t miss a potential favorite.
Add music websites to your blogroll
Music guru Crista, another contributor here at Modern Vintage Life that’s a total pro with music, told me that she used to discover tons of new music via blogs. I’ve been a lifestyle blogger for years, but I honestly never thought of reading up on the latest music literature for a recc. When you’re like me and not totally immersed in the music scene, sometimes the most basic discovery tools end up being the most fruitful. Taking her advice, I did a little research and found that sites like indie shuffle, or Pitchfork’s Best New Music section were worth digging through for finds. Her advice for finding more selectively curated music (and reviews), though? Find good blogs in the genres you love. It takes a bit of research, but once you’re ON the blogs, you get to discover from an author that is into the same stuff as you.
Get acquainted with SoundCloud’s Top 50
SoundCloud is generally seen as a way to find upcoming and indie music that may not be on the main music players just yet. At the same time, it’s a great way to discover trending music too. Simply click the “Top 50” link and either listen to chart toppers in all genres, or narrow to the ones you love. While exploring, you might just find a familiar face. It’s also a great place to find podcasts, which is how I first learned about it. Win win!
My music journey is far from over, and I still can’t quite answer the questions above, but I’ve already bookmarked some great music, and I’m actually inspired by what I’m hearing. Maybe one day I’ll share a playlist… One day.
How did you discover your current fave bands?