Just as the Internet and technology have changed the way people get their news, the same can be said about finding good music. At one time in our unconnected, non-Internet past, we had to listen closely to the radio, studiously writing down artist names and song titles, and then going in search of the music at local record stores — where they actually sold vinyl records.
At one time in the ’70s, I used to sit next to my little jambox, listening to the local urban radio station, Magic 108, taping the best songs I heard for mix tapes I titled “Radio Trax.” Fast-forward to today, when I rarely listen to commercial radio, and where my options for finding music are multiplying daily: Internet radio stations, podcasts, satellite radio, music blogs, recommendation services such as Pandora or Last.fm, or online music stores such as iTunes and Amazon.
So when I asked you this week’s question — “How do you find good music?” — I wasn’t surprised to get a lot of different answers, many of which focused on do-it-yourself solutions outside of mainstream channels.
On the podcasting tip, many folks pumped the PodSafe Music Network, an online music collection you can use on your podcasts without having to pay a licensing fee. The music site is part of the PodShow Network founded by former MTV VJ and podcasting pioneer Adam Curry. Many of the folks who wrote in are part of that network, meaning they have ad revenue sharing arrangements with PodShow.
“I have not listened to the radio in almost two years so all the music I discover is either through personal reccomendations or from podcasts,” wrote C.C. Chapman, a podcaster who’s part of PodShow. “I of course have a personal bias towards the Podsafe Music Network, but it is where I find new music every week for my own podcasts. The amount of independent music that was going unheard on the scale that it is now that podcasting has come along is staggering. Every day I find another artist that makes me just stop and wonder what is wrong with the current state of radio and record companies.”
Ken, who produces and co-stars in the “It’s All About Marta (and Me)” podcast, noted that the term “podcasting” is a little misleading, because you don’t need an iPod or even an MP3 player to listen to them — you can just listen on your computer. He took a historical view of podcasting and how it compares to the radio world.
“Today, with the proliferation of indie artist podcasts and websites, there is no longer a need to tune into mainstream media,” Ken wrote. “Of course, the masses still follow the normal routes to experience music. But, the determined — those that want to dig around a little more — have more options than ever before. I suspect the podcast (featuring indie artists) will one day have the same impact on the mainstream media that the development of FM had post-World War II.”
David Gutowski has a great way of getting good music to come to him — he writes a music blog called largehearted boy (logo pictured above), in which he posts 10 free, legal downloads each day. As the blog became popular, everyone starting sending him music to post.
“I am constantly looking for new music,” Gutowski wrote. “Luckily, artists, labels, and PR firms send me music, but I only post what I personally enjoy. Friends and readers often send mix CDs or suggestions, but lately I have found the MP3 blog aggregators (especially the Hype Machine) to be an invaluable way to hear a variety of artists in a short time. Pandora.com offers personal radio streams that feature music similar to an individual artist or song. I have discovered several artists through Pandora’s free service.”
Although you might not think of NPR as being a music mecca, two people mentioned finding out about music by hearing it played or reviewed on NPR shows. CarlenLea said she finds out about most new music via NPR or through friends’ recommendations, while Emery Jeffreys said “the best source on NPR is to look at the show logs that reveal the names of songs they play between news segments.” Note that NPR now offers a podcast called All Songs Considered, highlighting music from NPR and beyond.
Just Go Out and Hear It
Not everyone focused on non-traditional sources for good music. A lot of people mentioned getting recommendations from family and friends. Others said they listen to local college radio or independent stations in their vicinity.
Ravi Jain, who runs the excellent DriveTime podcast, starts out with college radio and then moves online for more info.
“I listen to terrestrial college radio in my car (or online at work),” Jain wrote. “I tend to favor WZBC here in Boston. They post their playlists on Spinitron so if I hear something I like while driving in, I can note the time and look it up when I get to work (song, artist, CD, label). I can then search for any other info or reviews or blog entries about that artist (if it’s someone I haven’t heard of).”
Another poster, David, also listens to a local public radio station, but exhorts people to get out of the house and actually see live music — what a concept!
“Take the SXSW [South-by-Southwest music conference] attitude and go to any live show that piques your interest,” he wrote. “Pay the cover, buy the CD, buy a beer, and the band will make out well enough to keep making great music.”
Bloggers Roberta Zouain and Jay Hinman both say they’ll download music from peer-to-peer networks to try them out first before buying CDs. Zouain says she listens to Internet radio via iTunes, and uses Music Map to find artists similar to the ones she already likes. Hinman takes a three-step approach: read about the music at a review site or blog; download some tracks to listen to them; buy it online if he really likes it.
“I almost never buy anything completely sound-unheard anymore, because I don’t need to — everything is available for tryout somewhere, whether it’s a 30-second clip on Amazon or an entire file obtained legally or illegally,” Hinman wrote. “I’m finding that even LP (vinyl)-only independent releases pop up on file-sharing sites days after they’re released, as it’s quite easy to create a CD from an LP in about an hour…It’s an amazing, amazing amount of music that can be sampled for free right now, and it’s completely changing the entire dynamic of music purchasing.”
No question. Many of you listed your steps for finding out about music and buying it, but I have to give Adam (who blogs at Monkey Daemon) extra credit for actually linking to his current music bookmarked publicly via del.icio.us.
Here’s his system for finding and obtaining new music:
I feed my PC about 10 tracks a day on average, mostly through MP3 blogs like Soul Sides.
The procedure goes like this:
1. Surf sites at work and tag specific MP3 files as “adrock1999cast” via del.icio.us
2. Convert the del.icio.us RSS feed into a podcast using Feedburner
(I only had to do this once)
3. Paste this Feedburner link into iTunes as a podcast (again, only once)
4. All the music I find at work is magically downloaded to my home PC and then my iPod!
Nice D.I.Y. solution, Adam. The point is that we’re no longer listening to Casey Casem’s Top 40 countdown, and are creating a million little Top 40s of our own through blogs, recommendations, podcasts and every other new way we can think of.