It’s often hard to discover new music. I listen to music all the time; at home, at work, in the car, sometimes even to help me sleep. But without the ability to find new music, I would soon get bored of the same old play lists. I’ve tried different methods over the years to expand my musical tastes, so hopefully some of these can be useful to somebody else.
1) BBC iPlayer Radio
Now I’m not a great fan of everything played on mainstream radio stations, including the BBC ones, but I do really enjoy using the BBC iPlayer radio. Annoyingly the BBC seems to have the habit of putting all it’s niche shows on a stupids hours of the day, when nobody is listening, but with the iPlayer you can simple pick any of these shows from the last 7 days, and re-listen to it on your PC.
2) Music store latest releases
I find my local music stores pretty uninspiring at times, but it doesn’t stop me walking in to check out the new releases, and staff recommendations stand. They may only have a handful of CDs in them at a time, but every few weeks I will walk in, scoop up a copy of each CD, and stroll over to a listening post to review my selection.
There are many social music sites about, but I seem to have made the most use of Last.fm. A simple plug-in to iTunes allows it to monitor all the music I listen to on my PC and iPod, and uploads the data to the Last.fm website. It’s very interesting to be able to see some statistics on your listening habits, but it’s most useful feature is the ability to view the listening habits of people that are deemed statistically similar to you. You can browse through your musical neighbors, looking out for bands that they listen to but you are not familiar with, and then even listen to sample tracks of them using the built in music player.
Pandora is an automated music recommendation service, which allows you to input a band or track you enjoy, and it will build you a radio station of similar music for you to listen to. I used Pandora for about a year until sadly the service was restricted to only be available in the USA, although many similar services have popped up since, such as One Llama.
5) Go to gigs
Going to see a band you love live is fantastic, but often it’s easy to underestimate the support bands. Support bands tend to be up and coming, or local bands you wouldn’t normally run into, so are a great source of new sounds.
6) Pick up a music magazine
I confess I don’t often buy music magazines, as I find the articles a waste of time. It might sound cheap, but often in shops I will pick up a copy of Kerrang, or the NME, and flip through to the new releases section, have a quick read and then return it to the shelf. I make a mental note of the bands, and then look them up later on the Internet, when I get home.
I often use the iTunes store to search for and listen to samples of bands I’m investigating, such as ones I found on Last.fm. You may only have the ability to listen to short samples, but the iTunes catalog is vast, which means you’ve got a good chance of finding what your looking for. Once in a blue moon I even purchase using the store, as I’m to damn impatient, and can’t wait for a CD to be delivered.
I discovered Magnatune at work, where I use an Ubuntu based Linux box for my daily tasks. The latest version of Rhythmbox that comes with the operating system, has been integrated with the Magnatune service. Magnatune allows you to listen to all the music you want for free, and even purchase songs using a “Pay what you deem fair” system. The music isn’t very mainstream, but selecting a bunch of tracks and playing them on random keeps me entertained.
9) Put you MP3 Player on random
I have a large MP3 collection, which played end to end would span many weeks. It’s very easy to find you have music you hardly ever, or never listen to. Putting your player on random, can often help your rediscover some hidden gems.
10) Ask your friends
Don’t under estimate your friends or co-workers, even if they do seem to have lame taste in music. It’s good to take interest in what other people are listening to, as it helps you diversify your listening habits, and explore something you wouldn’t usually listen to.