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How do you find new music? The answer you’ve been waiting for

Matt McMahon | Monday, October 14, 2013

Sparked by the fifth time in about a two-month’s span of being asked the question, I decided to answer it comprehensively in written form.  

Rather than spewing out disjointed, albeit passionate, ramblings to explain my thoughts, I’d like to take a more coherent, collected moment to answer my take on, “How do you find new music?” In my mind, there are multiple avenues in which a person can navigate to discover new, or missed, music, especially considering all the opportunities now available to us in this digital age:


1) Follow review websites and magazine

One of the easiest ways to stay informed of current releases is to check into what music reviewers are covering. These are definitely noteworthy, considering that reviewers have to dedicate a certain amount of time on each piece to form an opinion on what they’re listening to. While you certainly will not always agree with these opinions, following along with them informs you and opens up a deeper dialogue of discussion and evaluation with the music. 

Additionally, finding out which review aggregates focus on the specific styles of music you’re most interested in – for instance, Complex and XXL covering Hip-Hop, Spin covering Mainstream/Alternative, Pitchfork covering Independent and Rolling Stones covering crap – you can narrow down your searches to exactly what you want to hear.


2) Use record labels’ history of artists

Seeing what record labels your favorite bands and acts are – or were – signed to can give you an indication of what type of music the label looks for and specializes in. If a certain label has a past of getting bands with sounds you love, check out some of the other acts on the label, and if the label is making contracts with any new acts. 

For example, if you happened to catch Cloud Nothings’ intense show here last year – which you absolutely should have, but you probably didn’t – and liked their 90s-alternative-influenced sound, poke around with Carpark Records and you’ll find Speedy Ortiz, who put out an equally angst-ridden, equally excellent 90s-alternative inspired album this year.


3) Do some linked searching on the Internet

Say you reignited your love affair with the two French geniuses known as Daft Punk after this year’s release of “Random Access Memories.”  Doing a little digging around Wikipedia or Spotify in that genre might lead to the discovery of another duo making dance steeped in classic house tropes, Disclosure, and their debut “Settle,” perhaps one of the best albums to come out this year.  Equally, a couple of clicks from a Passion Pit page on either can lead to the ex-keyboardist’s new garage rock band Team Spirit and their high energy EP released this year.  In this age, with the technology available, its never been easier to look for music that will satisfy your tastes, through searches by genre, influences or even personnel involved.


4) Still, don’t neglect local music scenes

Even though it is a lot easier now to come across any type of music you could imagine through the beauty of the Internet, there are still a lot of lesser-known, underground acts that could be gaining ground in your area. So be on the look out for that band you could later brag about seeing in a small bar or intimate club just before they blew up. This used to be one of the only ways, coupled with tuning in to your local radio stations, to discover music before the Internet made it so easy to spread even the smallest releases worldwide.  While people debate whether the term “underground” is still relevant, genre movements by pockets of similarly minded outfits still crop up all over the place.  This could be lo-fi surf, punk rock bands from LA, heartland revival, folksy acts from Jersey or a collective of southern rappers from Atlanta.

At times looking into and keeping up with the bevy of music available at your fingertips can be as time consuming and exhausting as a job or schoolwork. However, if you are intent on finding something new, something to quench your unrelenting tastes, your efforts will reap major rewarded in all aspects of your search.

Contact Matt McMahon at
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.