Has your favorite music become harder to discover?
Most likely, here’s why
The bigger the bag, the looser the keys
Have you ever had to find your set of keys inside a big bag? Doesn’t it disappear among all the other stuff just to feel like it was never even there? Well, the same can happen with your favorite music. When placed among the growing mass of music available through digital media, it can feel impossible to find.
As musicians and music lovers, we have to fight this. The best thing any musician can do for themselves is to listen to as much music as they can. The more new music we take in, the wider our field of inspiration becomes, and the more ideas we’ll have for our own playing and writing. Though as stated, in this day and age there’s SO much content out there for us to consume, and music is no exception.
With the wider availability of recording technology and publishing platforms, there’s more new music on any given day than ever before. So how do we find the good stuff? Where do we look to find those diamonds in the rough that will ignite our passion for music all over again? Here are some of the places I’ve discovered songs, artists, and albums that have rocked my world.
On the radio
This one may seem obvious, but I believe it’s still worth mentioning. While the radio music industry might not be as ubiquitous as it once was, it’s still available at our fingertips whenever we like. Do you have a long drive ahead of you? Or a busy day at home doing simple tasks that don’t require much focus?
Find a station on the radio or online that features a style or genre of music that you usually enjoy, and see what the DJs throw your way. If you enjoy what you’re hearing, make a mental note to check out that station again.
This is similar to the radio but takes a different approach. Think about all the places you go during a typical day that have music playing over the speakers. Coffee shops, grocery stores, and gas stations provide excellent opportunities to hear a cool song.
If there’s something that catches your ear, try using a song-finding app (I personally use Shazam, though SoundHound is also quite good) to discover the name of the song and artist. Then when you get home, try looking up some of their other songs and see if those might also appeal to you.
TV and movies
Even when we’re not specifically trying to find new music, new music often finds us! Whether they’re written specifically for the project or were already released elsewhere, it’s incredibly common to hear full-fledged songs in movies or TV shows. Many songs have even become more well-known specifically because they appear in a famous or memorable scene.
If a show or film contains a piece of music that you find particularly moving, there are lots of ways to figure out what it is. The Shazam app comes in handy here, too, but you can also go to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) or Wikipedia page for the movie or show and see if it lists the music used. If you’re lucky, there might even be an official soundtrack available!
This might be my favorite place to discover a new artist. When you go to see a live performance by someone you already like, make sure you get there in time to hear the opening act as well. Most times, the opening act will be someone that the artist you’ve come to see likes and respects, so there’s a good chance that if you like the headline act, you’ll like the opener as well.
So many artists that I’ve come to love (Will Dailey, Jennie Abrahamson, Roísin O, and Foy Vance, just to name a few) were performers that I first heard as opening acts for someone else. Besides, it’s always nice to support a younger or lesser-known artist early in their career. After all, most of the biggest and most popular artists in the world started out as opening acts for more-established artists in their time. You can tell people that you discovered this amazing musician or band years before the rest of the world caught on.
Friends and family
If you’re ever stuck for something new and exciting to listen to, try asking around! The great thing about music is that just about everybody listens to it, and everyone has their own unique tastes and perspective. When someone tells you about this cool new band that they’re really into, check them out!
If a few different people happen to mention the same artist as someone worth hearing, that’s a REALLY good sign. This is also a great way to connect with fellow music lovers, as you can share your favorites with them, giving them something new to listen to!
Bonus tip: Albums
This is something I’m personally passionate about. When you’ve discovered an artist who has some songs that you like, look beyond just the Greatest Hits or the most popular singles and listen to a full album of their work. Don’t shuffle the tracks, and don’t skip songs if they’re not immediately engaging, just let the album fulfill its purpose in its entirety as a unit unto itself.
Deep cuts and non-hits (so-called “album tracks”) are just as much a measure of a great artist as the songs that everybody knows. Oftentimes, my favorite songs by huge artists are the ones that you’re very unlikely to hear on the radio (Billy Joel’s “Sleeping with the Television On,” Toto’s “It’s a Feeling,” etc.). The artists who inspire us most will often have hidden depths to offer us if we remember to look!
These are just a few ways to discover new music and find that spark of inspiration. See if you can find one song today that you’ve never heard before that speaks to you somehow. You’ll be glad you did.