Have you ever found yourself in a music rut? Listening to the same tracks time after time?
If either applies to you, I am here to bestow upon you some fresh ways to discover new music.
I’m often asked how I find my music, so from now on, the default is going to be sending them this article. I’ll be discussing everything from how to optimize your streaming platform, to using algorithmically-generated software in your day-to-day.
Exploring Spotify (and streaming platforms)
I only have experience with Spotify, so I apologize in advance to Apple Music/Deezer/Tidal subscribers. If you can, I suggest giving these all a try!
One useful element I like about Spotify is that it offers a stellar user experience.
The data collected by Spotify is incredibly extensive, and it goes much further than the Discover Weekly playlist. If you’re curious about how the algorithm works, this article does a fantastic job of explaining.
Playlist Continuation: Next time you’re scrolling on Spotify, check the bottom of your playlists for automatic playlist continuation. This feature recommends songs that are similar to the ones on your playlist by analyzing the audio. Another way to go about this is by clicking “Create Similar Playlist”. In my opinion, this option creates even more accurate suggestions.
Artist Profiles: Arguably the best way to find the talent you’ve yet to uncover is by visiting the Artist Profiles of your favourite musicians. Here, you can peruse through the “Fans Also Like”, “Discovered On”, and “Artist Playlist” sections to find the next artist you’ll have on repeat.
Independent Curators: Spotify also makes a ton of their own playlists, but that barely breaks the surface of the incredible playlists on the app. There are thousands of independent playlist curators out there, with some of my go-to’s being The Sounds of Spotify, Numero Group, and Indiemono.
Spotify Community Blog: For the most dedicated music buffs, The Spotify Community is worth seeking out. This website allows Spotify users to share ideas and discuss music with other members of the community. You can swap playlists, find song recommendations, and even offer suggestions to improve Spotify’s platform.
Now all Spotify has to do is start paying its artists more than $0.003 per stream…
They say vinyl is making a comeback, and I couldn’t agree more.
My obsession with collecting vinyl began when I first entered my local record shop in Vancouver. Without owning a turntable, I still found myself spending hours in the store, digging through the milk crates in an effort to find music’s best-kept secrets.
I haven’t stopped hunting for vinyl since. Beyond the walls of new, vacuum-sealed records, most record stores have treasure chests in the form of bargain bins where the real gems hide. For anywhere between one to ten dollars you can discover albums that aren’t available on streaming services. Not to mention, you get to own a tangible piece of music history.
Check out my article if you want to learn more about beginning your own record collection.
Since 2009, YouTube has been the place to find videos on anything and everything. Since its evolution, the platform has changed the face of the music industry. Despite this, the growth of streaming services has left YouTube in the dust for music discovery. With a little bit of exploration, you’ll find that YouTube is a buzzing space for emerging artists.
This part can be divided into two sections. One being focused on music journalism channels; videos that share opinion pieces, video essays, and interviews featuring artists around the world. The other being music promotion channels; where live performances and radio stations are broadcasted.
Music Journalism Channels: In the realm of music journalism, Anthony Fantano, otherwise known as The Needle Drop or the World’s Busiest Music Nerd, is known for his passionate reviews across rock, pop, electronic, metal, hip-hop, and experimental genres. While Fantano’s strong opinions and ten-point rating scale has garnered controversy in the music world, it’s undeniable that he has shaped the face of music criticism in the 2010s.
Bandsplaining is another YouTube creator that has caught my attention. In a “video-essay” style, this channel covers the odd and untold stories of lesser-known genres that aren’t covered in the mainstream. If you’re curious about infamous prison concerts or the psychedelic rock scene that took over Zambia in the ‘70s, this is the right channel for you.
For a more personal commentary, Alfo Media is a great place to discover music. With a focus on indie and hip hop genres, Alfo Media’s channel highlights topics like “Great Songs You May Not Know” or “An Introduction To…”. Almost every video has an underlying theme of sharing lesser-known artists.
Here are some other journalism channels whose driving force is music discovery:
Music Promotion Channels
There’s no better serotonin boost than watching artists in concert, but watching them perform in front of your screen is the second-best option.
When it comes to documenting live shows, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts does it best. This series captures up-close and personal performances that let the artist take the creative lead. The beauty of Tiny Desk Concerts lies in the intimate setting, hence the name.
The COLORS YouTube channel is another powerhouse for music discovery. The studio, started by Philipp Starcke and Felix Glasmeyer, features artists who perform live in an empty, monochromatic room. This platform allows original music to flourish without any distractions.
Here are some other music promotion channels that are setting the scene for virtual live performances:
Music Discovery Websites
Did you know it’s easy as typing in your streaming account information to find the next songs you’ll fall in love with? These algorithmic music discovery tools will introduce you to your next favourite jam.
Last FM: Founded in the United Kingdom, Last FM is music recommending system that builds a detailed profile of your music taste based on your most-listened-to tracks. For every song or artist, you stream, Last FM logs it as a “scrobble” to make spot-on suggestions.
Gnoosis: Using a self-adapting system, Gnoosis asks users about their favourite and least favourite artists to make recommendations. This database started off completely empty, but now has thousands of entries.
Boil the Frog: To use Boil the Frog, you type in the names of any two artists and it creates a playlist that connects them both in logical steps. Warning: I tried connecting Bach and Drake, and somehow a song from the Troll’s soundtrack showed up.
Every Noise at Once: Every Noise is an algorithmically-generated scatter plot of musical genres. The data is based on the 5,780 genres identified on Spotify. Down is more organic, up is more electric/mechanical. Left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.
What The F**k Should I Listen To Right Now: This discovery tool has surprised me with some pretty unexpected results. To find out what f**kng artist you should listen to next, type a f**cking artist in, and let the system do the rest.
Sick of mindless scrolling? Here are some apps that will help you be semi-productive in finding slappers on slappers.
Discz: This app is literally Tinder for music, minus creepy pickup lines and abrupt ghosting shenanigans. Log in to your streaming account, and Discz will suggest songs one by one. You know the drill, swipe right if you like what you see (or hear, in this case), and swipe left to reject. The good news is you won’t be breaking anyone’s heart.
Band of the Day: Think of a word of the day calendar, except it’s new artists. Open the app, check out the curator’s daily pick, and groove to the sample. Band of the Day even includes artist biographies and photos while you listen just to give you some interesting background information.
At the end of the day, asking your musically-inclined friends for recommendations is the OG method to finding artist and song suggestions. Unless you despise their music tastes, that is. Go to local concerts, scout out festivals with diverse lineups, and keep your ears open to whatever’s playing in your frequently-visited shops and cafes.
Finding new music can feel like a breath of fresh air, so I hope these suggestions encourage you to explore the endless tunes we have at our fingertips!
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: TIANA LAM