Spinning Platters Picks Six: Ways To Discover New Music

by Tony Butterworth on August 5, 2009

You won't need a crane

You won't need a crane

I’m the sad case of a middle aged man who only likes to listen to new music and refuses to buy in to “it was all better when I was younger.”  So this gives me a problem – How do I find new music?  Well I have come across some excellent methods that work well for me.  They allow me to discover new bands, listen to them and decide what I want to buy.

Before I start it’s worth noting that I did not include YouTube or MySpace.  These sites are fantastic for listening to music and watching videos but I have not found it a great way to discover new bands through them.  Once I know about a band they are wonderful resources for hearing and seeing them but not so much for finding them.

1.   MTV/VHI and other music channels
Yes, despite the “MTV doesn’t play music” theory, it actually does; MTV, VH1 and FUSE all play music videos throughout the night.  I frequently record these and skim through them looking for stuff I like.   The websites of these channels also have a lot of interesting content.  VH1 has its “you oughta know” feature that presents new artists.   Best of all, for me, is the MTV2 show Subterranean that plays 1 hour of new indie videos every week and has an excellent website.


2.  Last.FM
The first line of Last.FM’s FAQ reads

“Last.fm is a music service that lets you discover new music you like, based on the music you already listen to”

Last.FM has been an invaluable source of new bands and music for me.  I have Last.fm synced with my iPod so all my plays are recorded, they then use this data to recommend new bands.  I can also link up with other people and see what they’ve been listening to and view various charts.  Even without the syncing it’s still a wonderful source of music discovery.  Last.FM also provides a ton of information on bands, shows, festivals and all other music related minutiae.


3.  Pandora and similar (Slacker)

Similar to each other (and sharing some features with Last.FM) are Pandora and Slacker.  I am much more familiar with Pandora but Slacker works on the same principles. These websites allow you to enter songs you like and then plays you songs it thinks you might like, explaining the rationale behind how the song was selected along with letting you choose thumbs up or down to help you tailor the results.  I have spent many an hour writing down the names of bands recommended to me by Pandora based on a selected input.  Both sites also have excellent smart-phone integration.  You can also buy the songs directly from the page.


4.  iTunes Genius

Often maligned, iTunes Genius has worked well for me.  This feature allows you to click on a song in your iTunes library and, based on analysis of your library and of similar music from others it recommends a set of songs (which of course you can buy and download seamlessly.)  Again I have used this feature to discover bands which have become some of my current favorites


5.  Podcasts

Perhaps the biggest problem with podcasts is that there are so many and they are so varied in content and quality.  However if you can find a recommended show that covers a genre you like they can be a huge bonus.   I have been a long time listener of the Rock and Roll Geek Show and have come across bands I would never have heard of based on the music played and the recommendations from listeners.  There are so many good quality music based shows playing new, leaked and otherwise undiscovered music that there has to be at least one for you.  [Editor’s Note:  Don’t forget to listen to our own Spinning Platters Podcast.] Search the iTunes podcast directory or various other online directory sites also keep an eye on the MusicAlley (previoulsy the Podsafe Music Network) where bands upload music for play on podcasts.


6.  Satellite Radio

Satellite radio includes many excellent and eclectic shows that once again it’s a magical way to stumble across something.  I was a huge fan of Jonesy’s Jukebox, perhaps the most diverse show in the world and since its demise satellite has filled the gap (I actually get my satellite radio through DirecTV rather than a car set or similar).   Shows ranging from Little Steven’s Underground Garage to independently produced shows to days and weeks programmed by stars such as Bono and Bob Dylan. satellite radio is a huge source for new, undiscovered-by-you music.



Tony also podcasts about songwriting at www.homemadehitshow.com

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

David August 5, 2009 at 11:37 am

Another approach to music discovery is ‘social music recommendation’ based on the psychological perception of music. Our new service Music Patterns provides customized playlists based on music that ‘People Like You’ actually listen to.

Using a psychology-based approach to music preferences, this method combines your individual preferences with identifying those that are similar to your ‘music personality.’

This new form of social music recommendation was developed from years of research in this area by best selling author Dr. Dan Levitin and our team at Signal Patterns.


Marie Carney August 6, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I miss the old Pandora that didn’t pay any attention to genre and based the song selections on key/tonality and tempo.
aaahhhhh the good old days. lol.

I personally get most new music from my music sharing communities on livejournal. The Indie_exchange community is amazing. And you can always tell when someone’s about to make it big cause they get posted every five minutes… Teenagers are great for that!


Caroline August 7, 2009 at 11:47 am

I’m still an avid fan of Mornings Become Eclectic, Minnesota public radio (The Current) is pretty good too.


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