Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Find New Music

I've been a music fan my entire life. Conservative estimates would have me owning over 4,000 albums across five formats - vinyl, 8 track, cassette, compact disc, and digital. I hate to think of the money that I've spent on music in my lifetime, especially for the same title purchased in multiple formats. Scary.

Before music went digital, I was in a horrible music rut. The Minneapolis radio scene was a complete disaster as it had a narrow focus on heavy rotation adult contemporary. The songs that were played were horrible, and there was no truly new music on the horizon. My massive CD collection of 3,500+ titles was a gaudy and dusty eyesore. My schedule and location prevented indulgences in live shows.

It was at this point where I literally felt my days as a huge music fan were over. I had finally got to the point where the CDs needed to go, and through a used music service, I boxed many of them off and shipped them off for a pretty penny. Really rare titles were sold on eBay - there were a number that I sold for over $75 each. I kept those titles that were the absolute most meaningful, and resigned myself to a future of talk radio and sports stations.

In the middle of this great sale, I won a just-released iPod at an ecommerce marketing industry event, and my life got turned upside down. The move to digital was revolutionary. Access to bands and genres was no longer limited to what the crappy radio play list provided. I was back to a music consumer, and in a big way.

Since then, I've been exposed music that was completely unimaginable to me 8 years ago. There is so much incredible music being made right now, and finding a way to effectively appreciate it at times feels like drinking from a fire hose. It can be completely overwhelming. That being said, there have been some incredible tools that have aided me, and I wanted to pass along my top ten methods of finding (and appreciating) new music:

10) iTunes' free single of the week - Every Tuesday iTunes releases one track for free. Usually these songs are pretty crappy, but this was where I first got exposed to Matthew Good. If for no other reason, this tool will forever be more than worth it.

9) Band websites - There are a lot of generous bands that make their material available for free on their websites. Kathleen Edwards is a great example of site that provides wonderful exposure to new music

8) Facebook - The "Fan" feature of Facebook allows the user access to communication streams of their favorite bands. Savvy bands are using it to announce free/discounted music, new releases, and tour dates. I'm currently following 46 bands via this method.

7) Pandora internet radio - With Pandora, users can create a "station" based on an artist or a song. Armed with that information, Pandora serves up music that "matches" the desired sound via their complex tagging and database system. And if it happens to serve up a song that really appeals, listeners are just one click away from purchasing it on iTunes.

6) Amazon's free music - Just like iTunes, every Tuesday Amazon makes about 20 songs available for free on their website. Some are crap, but there are other definitely some gems out there. I really enjoy seeing what they have available every Tuesday morning before I go to work.

5) iTunes' recommendation engine - Based on what I've previously purchased, iTunes serves up recommendations by using an algorithm of the purchase history of other users. It bats about .500 for me, but I've found some great bands by interfacing with this engine.

4) Shazam music finder - This is one of the most useful apps ever created for the iPhone. If you hear a song you like (on the radio, playing in the background at a restaurant, on TV, etc.) simply bring up this app, "tag" the song (basically, the app "listens" to the song and codes it into 1s and 0s), and the tag is sent to their database where the name, band, and album is instantly returned. If you really like what you heard, you can click a button and instantly buy it from iTunes.

3) iTunes' interface - iTunes has created the ability to dig deep on artists, identify songs and albums that are ranked highest by the community, and acquire what would be desired by one single mouse click. To date, I've spent $734 on single songs and albums through that addictive interface.

2) Sirius Satellite Radio - I will never listen to terrestrial radio again. With Sirius, I have access to every genera imaginable, and all commercial-free. My hands-down favorite station is Sirius/XM-U, a fabulous indy station. Exposure to that station alone has resulted in at least $300 in individual downloads.

1) Paste Magazine - My wife bought me a subscription to this magazine, and it opened a whole new world for me. It leans pretty heavily indy, but does cover a wide swath of genres. And with every issue come 20-25 new songs (either in CD or MP3), and while only about 50% of them strike a chord with me, some of my finds have been revolutionary. With a premium subscription, you're given access to multiple bonus albums and live recordings. The magazine comes out for me about the 15th of the month, and I act like a little kid around that time waiting for it to finally arrive in my mailbox.

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