How to branch out

HOW TO 

FIND NEW MUSIC

Knowing what you like is great, but what about everything you’ve never heard of?  

What if your taste has been defined by what you’ve been exposed to?

There are countless artists, bands and styles you don’t even know exist; many of which could speak to you like nothing has before. Music evolves so quickly, in so many different ways and places, that we just can’t know all of what’s out there.

As you grow and change as a musician your tastes will change as well. While you might always be fond of a specific style of music, you probably won’t listen to it exclusively throughout your life.

It’s important to experiment with your listening and expand your musical view, in order to discover if there’s more music out there for you.

A little exploration can lead you to discover the passion that will fuel your musical journey.

Pay attention, ask questions, have an open mind.

So how do you branch out and broaden your musical horizons?

Firstly, start a ‘to listen’ list.

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I’ve got a list on my phone that I’m constantly updating with artists and bands to check out when I get a chance. When I feel like something new I go online and start listening. 

If I like something it goes on my playlist, gets downloaded, or I follow them on social media to remind me later. If I’m not feeling something on my list I’ll know after a few songs, simply delete it and move on.

Here are 10 ways to start your own ‘to listen’ list.

1. Ask family and friends

This should always be the first step and is always the best method. Have real-life conversations with people you know and respect, especially if you know a musician or another music lover. Sit them down and specifically ask; ‘what have you been listening to lately?’.

Pay attention, ask questions, have an open mind. If something sounds interesting then it goes on the list.

2. Social media

This can be used in two ways. Start by making a general post asking for new music advice. Something like “need new music, what’s good these days?”.

Another way to use social media is to personally message people you might not see a lot in person, but who seem like they have good taste. Because I post about music a lot I often get messages from friends asking for recommendations, and I’m always happy to share what I think is good at the moment.

3. Spotify (or other streaming service)

Spotify is an extremely useful tool for discovering new music. With a free account you can find and save your current favourite artists to your library. Once you’ve got your favourites saved, click on the first artist and at the top of the page will be a tab called ‘related artists’. Boom. There are 20 similar artists to check out, and each artist will have their own slightly different set of related artists. 

Another Spotify function is the ‘Daily Mix’. This is where a playlist is created using an algorithm that compiles music based on the artists in your library. Listen to your daily mix and write down the artists you like. You can also see what your friends who use Spotify are listening to as they listen. Check them out! 

4. Online forums

You might use some sort of online forum for your other hobbies and they are fantastic places to ask about and search for new music. Reddit for example has multiple public forums based on genres, but also forums like r/listentothis, which is described as being “a place to discover music by new or overlooked artists”. GOLD! Get listening!

5. Go to shows

Local gigs, club nights and concerts are amazing places to discover new music. Look up your local music venue(s) and see what they have coming up. Go to a show and experience it live! Many bands and venues also play all ages shows so don’t be discouraged if you are under-age, you just have to look a bit harder or ask your parents to take you.

6. Music magazines/websites

There are thousands of websites dedicated to music, from giants like Pitchfork to genre specific blogs. On these sites you will find album and gig reviews, artist features and interviews, written by people who really care about music. Search, listen, discover.

7. Festivals

Here’s a trick; no matter where you are from, google search UK music festivals for the year just gone (or the current year if you’re searching from April onwards). 

Make a list of festivals, visit each festival’s site and find the artist line-up for that year. Go through listening artist by artist. Some festivals will even release curated line-up playlists on Spotify or YouTube each year. If you like lots of music from a specific festival, see if there’s something similar near you and attend it next year.

Festival line-ups are a great way to discover new music and keep up with current trends.

8. Listen to the radio

Be careful with this one. The radio can be a popular place to hear what’s happening in the world of music (47% of all music consumption in 2016 was via radio)[1], but mainstream radio stations specifically play songs that appeal to as large of an audience as possible. 

Radio stations are businesses and DJ’s are often told what to play by station managers, whose focus is on business, not offering an eclectic and interesting playlist. Radio managers choose (or are convinced by label promoters and sponsorship deals) to play the songs most likely to be popular to the widest audience, in order to generate maximum income for the station. 

Think of mainstream radio songs like television advertisements; they are carefully designed to be short, simple and easy to remember in order to to sell something. Mainstream radio is for casuals.

This doesn’t apply to all radio. Local radio, student radio, independent radio and internet radio can be great mediums for passionate people to share new music and ideas. I know that local radio definitely helped shape my musical outlook as a teenager.

Open your mind, take risks and know that the more music you hear, the better musician you will become.

9. Shops/cafés

These might seem like strange places to find new music, but consider this; have you ever been in a really trendy café or clothing store and heard some cool music? I have! Next time this happens to you, just ask the person behind the counter what the music is. They’ll feel complimented on their taste and will be glad to share. 

10. Genre pioneers/stereotypes

Since you know what music genres suit you, dig deeper in those genres - start at the beginning! You’re a big R&B fan? A little research on the history of R&B and famous R&B musicians offers up names like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. 

Even searching contemporary R&B brings up names like Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and John Legend. So already we have 12 unique and diverse artists to check out after two minutes of research.

Start your list now! Choose one or more of the above techniques and try to add five artists you’ve never heard to your list.

The most important message to take away from this is to simply try!

Your musical potential is hiding within you, waiting to be exposed. By consuming a diverse range of music and constantly searching for new ideas, you’ll find endless ways to unleash your potential and apply it to your music.

Open your mind, take risks and know that the more music you hear, the better musician you will become.

By branching out and constantly exploring new music, you are filling an infinite internal storehouse of experience to use on your own musical journey.

[1] - http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2017/2016-music-us-year-end-report.html

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