“How do you find new music?” I love and hate this question all at once. I love it because it always opens up a world of possibilities: everyone has a favorite way to look for new music, and I love coming across sources I didn’t know or hearing ideas I’d never thought of before. But I hate it too because it’s so hard to answer when it’s asked of you – there’s no single right way of doing it.
So to kick off my “How to be a Good Groupie” series, I’m sharing how I go about finding new bands to love. If you’re a die hard music fan like me, most of these probably won’t be news to you, but maybe some of my favorite sources or suggestions will give you a new place to explore.
How to discover new bands to love
We’ll start with the basics: grab a copy of your favorite music magazine and flip to the new artists or new releases section. And instead of just flipping past the page because you don’t recognize the band names, pay attention to it. There’s always reviews, features, etc. of up-and-coming artists, and if you’re reading online there’s probably a song clip or video to listen to. Don’t ignore these. If you’re on a quest to discover new music for yourself, put on your PI hat (mine looks like this) and do a little digging around! New music doesn’t always just fall into your lap, and sometimes a little work is worth the big payoff of finding your new favorite band.
The Good Groupie’s faves: Spin, Paste, Alternative Press on occasion, Entertainment Weekly‘s music section and Nylon‘s #bandcrush
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from scouring music mags is becoming a follower of music blogs. Most music publications have one, and sites like Pitchfork or NPR Music are great spots for getting to listen to records before they’re released. I follow these kinds of sites on Twitter so I can keep an eye out for things I might be interested in.
But I encourage you to dig deeper and find sites run by music fans, just like you and me. These are great places for finding not just up-and-coming artists but also for finding bands you might never have run across. Plus a lot of them are great about putting together playlists of the artists they write about.
Bonus tip: Take this one step further and find social media users who share new music! One of my faves to follow on Twitter and Instagram is Open Ears.
This might be the easiest, most obvious way to discover new music…but it’s also one of the most overwhelming and the least beneficial to a band. There’s a gazillion music apps out there, and I’ve tried most of them: Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Songza, 8tracks and, most recently, Beats Music. My brother is a big fan of Rdio for its simple navigation, 8tracks is a cool concept I like but haven’t played around with nearly enough and I dig Beats Music’s “sentence” that’s something akin to how Songza’s mood navigation is set up. And the great thing is every single one of these apps is either designed to help you find new music or has a discovery feature. Use one, and you’re guaranteed to find a new favorite band.
One caveat here, and it’s a big one: don’t rely on streaming services as your source for music. While these apps are useful and, like me, you might even pay for extra features (I pay for Spotify and Pandora One, at the moment), it’s not unfair to say bands are totally getting screwed by these services. Just last week on Twitter, I shared this photo showing a band that got 2.5 million plays on Pandora and was only paid $53 for it. While I don’t know all the ins and outs of how streaming services pay for their music, I do know this: if you genuinely like the music, support the band and buy the album. Buying your music, whether a physical or digital copy of the album, is still incredibly important to a band’s success.
Subscribe to satellite radio
Okay, this one is a bit pricey but hear me out: when I bought Miss Delaney last summer, she came with a three month trial of SiriusXM. And, absolutely sick of the radio options in Houston, I was instantly addicted. When the trial was up, I decided paying for music was worth it. Not only was I getting channels full of my beloved “oldies” music; I was also getting a whole slew of stations featuring up-and-coming music that I could flip to when I needed something new. I’m just one girl, but to this girl the payoff of new music discovery potential is worth the price of an annual satellite radio subscription – and actually, I pay less per month for satellite radio than I pay for Spotify per month.
Go to shows!
One of the very best ways I’ve discovered bands is by going to see other bands I already love. By making the effort to get there early and catch the opener, I’ve fallen in love with The Sounds, Rachael Yamagata, The Format/fun., Steel Train and even those gents in Quiet Company. And if your favorite band likes ’em enough to take them on tour…shouldn’t that be enough of an endorsement for you?
Bonus points if you go to a show blindly, having only heard a song or two by any of the bands playing. I did that with Fitz & the Tantrums a few years back and that one show made me a fan for life.
Ask a friend
When I get tired of everything I’m listening to, I start asking friends what they’re into lately. Sometimes they have great suggestions; other times, they’re just as stuck-in-a-rut as me. But throwing this question out on social media every couple of months is a surefire way to find a few new bands to love.
Tips from “The Girls”
I have my own thoughts on this, but I thought I would ask the girls for their suggestions on this topic too – what they use to discover music or why they love using a certain outlet. Here’s what they had to say:
Jenny: I use Spotify Discover, mostly when I get bored at work. It was really useful the other day! When I saw Hanson in St. Louis (summer 2013), they had an opener that I really liked but I forgot his name. I was looking at Discover suggestions, and I recognized his face on his album cover! Spotify was smart enough to know what sound I like, and I thought that was pretty cool. (His name is Matt Hires. He’s awesome and just left his label for the exact reason Hanson did, so hopefully he will have new music soon!)
Samantha: I tend to stick with what I know and love. However, recently my ears have wandered through the ‘related artists’ tab on Spotify, and oddly enough watching Palladia early in the morning can produce some new and interesting selections.
Melanie: Facebook when I’m looking for bands. Sometimes I’ll go to stores like Newbury Comics and blindly buy a CD. Sometimes I’ll go into iTunes and look at new singles or randomly type in words. I also like to buy soundtracks in hopes I’ll find something new. That happened recently when I bought The Mortal Instruments soundtrack… I discovered and fell in love with He Is We. I also love exchanging mix CDs for this purpose!