Discovering new music can be a challenge today. This is despite the fact that music streaming is one of the best things to happen to music. For just a few dollars a month, listeners can have endless catalogs of music at their fingertips. That random song you heard once at a party in 1993 that you just remembered? Spotify or YouTube or Apple Music or one of the many music streaming services probably has it. And while listening to music you already know about is pretty simple, what’s hard is find new music you don’t already know about.
If there is anything that the music streaming services haven’t quite figured out yet, it’s how to discover new music. And I don’t just mean how to discover the top 10 most popular songs out right now. In today’s age of easily accessible music, how do you actually go about discovering music that you want to hear? How do you find new artists? While our upcoming app will solve many of these problems, in the meantime we’ve put together a few of our best tips on how you can pull yourself out of a music rut and start discovering new music.
1. Friends and Family
Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to discover new artists. The people who know you best are most likely to recommend songs or artists that meet your musical taste. Do you have a few friends or family members whose opinions on music you can really trust? These are the ones to check in with frequently for recommendations on new music. And if you just so happen to have a true audiophile in your family or friend group, use this person as a trusted resource and oracle to guide you in the right musical direction. People who listen to music across many genres are the best music resources to have as they can usually point you in new directions and recommend music from artists or genres that you’ll like, but that may have otherwise been entirely off your radar.
2. Spotify Radio and Discover Weekly
Spotify can be an excellent tool for discovering new music – if you can be patient enough with its algorithms. Discover Weekly and Spotify radio are two really great discovery tools. Spotify radio works by playing an ongoing playlist of songs based on either a seed song or playlist. Using the radio feature is great when you have a song with a certain vibe that you just want to hear more of.
I also like to use Spotify radio to find more songs to add to my playlists. If I’m building a playlist around a particular type of music – say classical music – and I want to find more songs to add to my list, I just go to the playlist menu and select “Go to radio.” As I find new songs that I am interested in, I add them to my playlist or add them to my “Liked from the radio” playlist by liking the songs as they are playing.
Years ago, I found one of my favorite artists, Emily King, by doing just this. After starting a radio station based on an existing playlist, I found myself liking all of her songs as they played on the station. By the time I decided to finally check out “who this artist is,” I had liked all of the songs on her EP “Seven,” which had just come out at the time. Six plus years later, I’m still a huge fan!
Discover weekly is also a great Spotify resource to use to find new music. It works by using an algorithm to understand your listening patterns – what types of music and artists you typically listen to. Spotify then suggests new songs – sometimes from artists you already know about – that it believes you would like.
Now, these two features are great for discovering new music, again, if you have the patience to deal with Spotify’s algorithm. For those who do not know how algorithms work, it essentially analyzes historical data. It uses the information gained from historical listening patterns – such as the genre, tempo, artists, etc. of the music that you have listened to and then uses this information to find songs that have similar patterns or music styles. The benefit is that if you like to listen to a lot of the same music, for example, music from a specific genre, then Spotify’s algorithm will probably make some fantastic recommendations for you. However, if you like a lot of different types of music from various genres, well…then Spotify might have some trouble helping you expand your musical horizons.
I like to say that asking me about what music I like to listen to is a lot like asking my mood versus my temperament. My overall musical temperament is probably R&B; I love it. Oldies, new stuff, classic, alternative, I just really love R&B music, and it’s the genre I connect with the most. But what I want to listen to right now; my music mood, well that can be just about anything – trap, folk, ska, samba, gangster rap, free jazz.
Separating your music temperament from your music mood is where Spotify’s algorithm has the most trouble. Since the algorithm is taking into account what you typically like to listen to over a more extended period (your music temperament), if you try to start a radio station for a song that doesn’t fit within the box of your music temperament, the algorithm will just push back in. I’ve learned this hard way over the years after starting radio stations to hear some good 90s rock music before being played 90s R&B (*facepalm*).
Reddit may be an unexpected place to find new music recommendations but the site, which has more than X users, has several very active music subreddits. In fact, just type in “how to discover music” on Reddit (or even in a Google search), and you’ll find pages of posts on the site with brilliant recommendations from users. Also, because Reddit has such a large and active music community, you are likely to find more than a few people that share your taste in music and who can give you some music recommendations. A good place to start on Reddit? “Listen To This.”
The music website, Pitchfork, is a great source for just about all things music. In addition to keeping up with the latest going on in music news, the site also does exclusive interviews with artists and album reviews. You can use features like their “Best New Music” section to see well-reviewed albums. When you sign up for their “Hot Links” newsletter, you cannot only stay up to date with the latest music news song releases, but you can also catch their weekly update of album releases.
5. Check Out What Your Favorite Artists Are Listening To
One underrated way to find new music that you’ll like? See who your favorite artists are listening to! It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most overlooked ways to discover new music. Artists love to show support to one another, whether it’s just posting on social media or collaborating with other artists whose music they respect. Artists of the same genre also often collaborate or practice or perform together. So your favorite band or musician just might be the best source for you to find your next musical obsession.
In addition to traditional social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, you can see who your favorite artist is listening to by looking at their YouTube and Spotify playlists. While most musicians today have YouTube and Spotify accounts with playlists that highlight their own music, many will also create playlists with songs that they’re just into at that moment.
6. Fans Also Like
I have to reiterate what a great tool Spotify can be for you if you are looking for new music. The app has come a long way over the years and continues to make improvements to music discovery. Another feature that will help you find your new music obsession is the “Fans Also Like” feature. Located near the bottom of an artist’s profile, the “Fans Also Like” feature provides a list of other artists related to the artist you are currently viewing. Typically, the artists are of a similar genre or musical style. Still, the great thing is that you can really go down a rabbit hole searching for different artists this way, which may lead to you discovering music that you’d never even thought of.
7. NPR Music
NPR Music, like Pitchfork, is a great resource for anyone who loves music. They have great album reviews and lists, in addition to music news, interviews, and other exclusive content. In my opinion, NPR does a better job at covering a wider range of music than Pitchfork and a lot of the other music sites, so it is a great resource no matter what genre of music you’re in to. I also like that NPR has playlists available and has links to different music stations for you to listen to online, which makes discovering new music all the easier.
8. Tiny Desk Concerts
No, I didn’t forget about one of the best parts of NPR Music, but I thought that “Tiny Desk Concerts” was deserving of its own mention. Yes, you will find a long list of “Tiny Desk Concerts” on the NPR Music website; however, many people discover and consume “Tiny Desk” on YouTube. “Tiny Desk” performances have become the modern-day “SNL,” right of passage for artists. You can find performances from just about anyone: Adele, Lankum, Norah Jones, Natalia LaFourcade, and (my personal favorite) Anderson .Paak. There are so many “Tiny Desk Concerts” that I dare you to listen to them all and not come away loving at least 10 performances!
Since the start of the pandemic, “Tiny Desk Concerts” have moved to “At Home” concerts. Still, the quality of the performances remains just as good as ever. Also, keep your eyes out for live-streamed concerts, frequently done around an album release. Lianne LaHavas did a live-streamed concert for “Tiny Desk” a few months ago and took live questions from YouTube commenters. Jazmine Sullivan also recently did a live-streamed “Tiny Desk Concert” the day her “Heaux Tales” album was released.
Finally, and perhaps most cliched, if you want to discover new music, why not just listen to the radio? I know that you’re probably thinking, it’s all just the same top 40 crap I am trying to get away from. However, remember that radio doesn’t have to mean the radio stations you get in your car. It’s 2021, baby! We can do better than that! There are countless apps and services that you can use to pick up radio stations from around the world. Services like SiriusXM, I Heart Radio, Apple Radio, TuneIn and more, let you listen to music from across genres and the world. Sometimes just surfing through radio stations is the best way to hear something new and that you never knew you’d like.