Discovering Music

Leading on from my previous post about listening to music, here are some of the techniques and resources I have been using to help me discover and remember new music.

I've found creating more specific playlists helps me both recall old music and remember new. Playlists over a couple of hours in length seem too long to me. I tend to just click play on these lists, so songs towards the tail end of them probably get missed quite often. I aim to keep playlists under two hours, meaning all the songs get an even rotation.

Data-Driven New Artists

Spotify has a “fans also like” section and Last.fm has “similar artists”. These are all driven by “big data”, using the behaviours of millions of song plays and user data to find connections between bands. These sections are usually pretty good but are often – especially for well-played artists – filled with other artists you have already heard of.

Whenever a track catches my attention, I check whether I am already following them or not. If I'm not, I follow them and add the track to a playlist. I group these playlists by year and then by genre. This means the playlists don't get too large and I can revisit the years I discovered a certain band.

Musical Relationships

I've found one of the most rewarding ways of discovering new music is discovering an artist's “relationships” with other projects. That relationship isn't data-driven, but personal; finding other bands that the artist has played in or contributed to.

I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of similar artists, reading their wikipedia entries and researching other bands they've played in.

I have done research like this for a few artists, for example Bright Eyes + Conor Obrest, Less Than Jake or Mike Park. You'll be surprised what turns up and no doubt find a few more bands you love – Less Than Jake members were in a band called Coffee Project who ended up being my favourite artist in 2022.

A Local Scene

In November 2022 – the same week I discovered the Florida-based band The Attack – I found they were playing at a local venue. Tickets were less than £10 and I jumped at the chance to see them. I'd never been to the venue before and although it was small it reminded me of fond memories I had watching bands at The Foundry in Birmingham.

The venue, Redrum in Stafford, has been one of the biggest drivers of new “less-listened-to” and little-known artists. When they add a new event, I jump on to Spotify to see whether I like them and invariably I do!

Three days after discovering the venue I was back again. This time to see UK-based band Sunliner, supported by local bands Our Souls, Shackleford and The Burnt Tapes. That's four new artists discovered!

An “unknown to me” band called Los Fastidios played a few weeks later. I turned up expecting the same small crowd, but the venue was packed. Admittedly, it was a generation older than me (!) but people were dancing and singing along to this Italian oi-oi band.

I've created a playlist of Bands at Redrum that is full of artists – mainly local – that have played at the venue. I am looking forward to seeing more bands in 2023 and discovering more great local bands too.

Online

I stumbled across Nobody Asked My Opinion which posts monthly round-ups of new punk and adjacent band's album and EP releases. Each month there is a plethora of music to listen to. There are some artists which I will skip, but each month I might find a new album or two to listen to. I save these playlists so I can refer back to them.

Chris DeMakes a Podcast is a podcast by Less Than Jake front-man. He interviews artists about their most popular release. They delve into the inspiration, songwriting process and production. Their discussions about inspirations are a good way to find new songs and there is a playlist which covers the songs they mention.

Unsigned Pop Punk is a website I found from their playlist New Music Friday which is a great showcase of the depth of new bands releasing music.

I follow a few subs on Reddit. PopPunkers seems to be populated by people in their late-thirties/early forties, exactly like me… It has been a good sub to find newer bands, only to learn they've since broken up! They have a Top weekly posts playlist. Another sub-Reddit is Ska, which has been a good way to find new ska bands and reminders of bands long forgotten. There seems to be a thriving scene for ska in Latin America.


Enjoy some of my playlists: