How To Discover New Music and Free Yourself from Musical Paralysis
You’ve set yourself a quest to discover new music. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by all the choices and need some inspiration. Or maybe you love your existing music collection so much that you’re nervous that any new additions will result in disappointment.
If you’re in the first group, you might want to skip the next section and dive straight into the nitty gritty of where and how to source new music, starting with streaming services like Spotify.
But be honest with yourself here because if your existing tracklist besots you, a successful venture into music’s unknown likely starts with challenging your mindset.
TO DISCOVER NEW MUSIC, YOU MUST KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Are you really open to novelty in your playlist?
After surveying 5,000 people in France, the UK, Germany, USA and Brazil, Deezer found that 65% of respondents only listen to music they know. On a more positive note, 60% of respondents wanted to discover new music.
But their quest was lost to apathy or “being too busy and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of choice available” (the two most common blockers recorded by survey respondents).
Deezer calls the phenomenon outlined by their survey results as “musical paralysis”.
The symptoms? We return to our favourite music and are too hesitant to take a chance on anything new in case the risk outweighs the reward.
MUSICAL PARALYSIS DESCENDS AS YOU AGE
Douglas Adams’ hilarious commentary about novelty becoming less tolerable as we age was, for one, more forgiving than Deezer’s claim that musical paralysis usually hits “right around your 28th birthday”. Secondly, it has a scientific basis.
As if battling symptoms of 21st century living like busyness and overwhelm wasn’t enough to stop you from sourcing the latest scary art pop, we’re also battling our brains.
As we age, it gets harder to form emotional attachments to new music – plus, we get even more attached to the tunes of our younger years because they have strong links to “autobiographical memories of specific events”.
The long and short of it, do give yourself a break if you don’t jam your playlist with new tracks galore.
But don’t sleep on discovering new music due to malaise. Set aside time and consciously dare to find something different because enjoying a plethora of new sounds is a natural salve to musical paralysis.
DISCOVER NEW MUSIC WITH STREAMING SERVICES
From accessible tips to more obscure tricks, here’s how to discover new music on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Music Unlimited, and the indie-darling of the streaming world, Bandcamp.
The “Daily Mix” is an automatic playlist curated by Spotify based on the music you’ve already been enjoying.
It updates daily, increasing the chance of finding new music somewhat organically. More than that, it comprises favourites you consistently listen to. It’ll periodically include songs you’ve not already heard though, something by the same artiste or other similar tracks.
“Fans Also Like” is another handy feature to help you discover new music through Spotify.
Unlike many other Spotify playlists, these suggestions are generated algorithmically based on what other fans listen to rather than being curated by staff members.
You can access “Fans Also Like” by clicking on any artiste’s profile. There might be some related artistes you already know, but there could be some hidden gems there too. So click your favourites to access a list of similar artistes.
You can also search Spotify’s curated genre playlists. These are great if you want to dive into a new genre or discover up-and-coming artists in a genre you already love.
Bonus tip: Enable “Friend Activity” for desktop to discover what your friends are playing.
What Apple Music lacks in algorithmic recommendation, it makes up for with its curated playlists. You can tell a lot of thought goes into these playlists, which are generally quite reliable.
If there’s a significant artiste you enjoy, you can access related music “rabbit holes” through Apple’s “Essentials”, “Next Steps” and “Deep Cuts”.
You can even access playlists full of tracks that influenced your favourite artiste or music they directly inspired.
Bonus tip: Try “Exclusive Content” for recordings from big names to independent artistes that you'll only find through Apple.
YouTube’s “My Mix” offers its own spin on Spotify’s “Daily Mix”; it’s generally full of tracks you listen to regularly from across genres.
However, this informs the “New To You” feature, which recommends music you’ve not heard yet based on tracks you’ve already played.
YouTube is also helpful for diving into new genres or more profound exploration of your favourites.
Check out the “Mood & Genres” section or discover entire channels dedicated to curating playlists and streams and sharing lesser-known artists.
Lofi Girl's “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” stream is an example. Meanwhile, if you’re into psychedelic rock, YouTube boasts compilations full of hidden gems.
There’s also YouTube’s “New This Week” playlist and the “New Releases” section that's updated daily, although these aren’t always ideal for finding lesser-known music.
Bonus tip: If you use YouTube to watch demos of any kind (software, games and more), you can find some unique background music to investigate that could introduce you to a new genre. Any music used in these demos is usually credited in the description so that you can locate the tracks there.
AMAZON MUSIC UNLIMITED
Amazon Music Unlimited (note: this is different from Amazon Prime Music) has some handy features that are great for finding new music.
The “Related Artist” function will provide you with new songs related to a specific artiste. You can access this through any artiste page by scrolling down to the bottom and searching the related content.
The “Songs For You” feature can be found via the Amazon Music Unlimited web and mobile apps. Here you'll discover a list of tracks recommended by Amazon based on what you've previously played.
You'll also get “Albums For You”, “Stations For You” and “Playlists For You”.
Bonus tip: Check out Amazon’s “Top Charts” to listen to the most popular playlist and songs. Some are grouped by season or even time period. These might be mainstream, but you can access more nuanced suggestions via the related suggestions linked to each artiste’s page.
Bandcamp is one of the better platforms for discovering lesser-known artistes.
This is likely because the whole ethos of the service is to empower musicians to make money independently by selling directly to fans, and most people on the service want something a little different.
Every month, Bandcamp curates the best new music by genre (“best of jazz”, for example), so you’ll get instant access to new music by your favourite artistes or people you’ve never heard before.
Bandcamp’s tags are another popular way to explore new music. These are user-generated, so a band you already love will use tags that link them to similar artistes and genres. You can find some obscure additions in the mix.
Bonus tip: Head to Bandcamp’s “The-Newness” music collection for a deep dive into new music with “no restrictions, no reissues, just newness”.
DISCOVER NEW MUSIC VIA SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE WEB
Image: Jan Baborák/Unsplash
Social media and the online world can be a hive of inspiration for music lovers inflicted with a case of musical paralysis – if you know where to look.
Check out these three areas to help you in your music discovery quest.
There are plenty of music hashtags to experiment with across social media platforms. You could start wide-lensed with #allhiphop and then filter down into less obvious picks with #indiehiphop or #undergroundrapper.
Equally, you could try #newmusic and if that’s too mainstream, consider getting creative with #unsignedartist or #independentartist.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole subcategory of #undergroundmusic hashtags ranging from #undergroundmusicshowcase, #undergroundmusicmovement or even #undergroundtechno.
FIND ONLINE COMMUNITIES
Social media and the internet are brimming with music communities that focus on specific genres or cater to music lovers with eclectic tastes. You could use the search bars on social media to find music groups or discover communities using particular hashtags.
There are also online forums like Reddit with various music subreddits to explore. You’ll find everything there, from stoner rock and Memphis rap to folk punk and quiet storm.
You could also join the growing DIY music scene on YouTube: a music curation community like Boiler Room is an excellent place to start.
ASK YOUR EXISTING NETWORK
If you already have an existing network of followers or connections on social media why not reach out to them? You don't have to DM anyone. You could share a post asking people how or where they discover new music.
You might even specify a genre like so: “Hey, connections/followers! :) I want to discover new music in the chillhop genre. Does anyone in my network have any recommendations? Thank you!”
Bonus tip: If your work’s Slack has a “Random” channel that people frequently use (and you feel comfortable posting in) you could ask if people would like to exchange playlists. It’s a great way to socialise, start a fun conversation about music and expand your music collection.
For some new music inspiration check out our curated conscious rap playlist below:
ATTEND IN-PERSON EVENTS TO DISCOVER NEW MUSIC
The online space can be a cornucopia of new music, but there’s nothing quite like the thrill of attending an in-person music event.
Knowing you’re supporting the music scene and being part of a tangible community of like-minded people you can see makes the whole experience seem a little more magical.
VISIT LOCAL BANDS OR EVENTS
There are emerging artistes on our doorsteps that we often overlook. Attending local gigs or music events like festivals is a great way to discover new music and support the local scene in person.
Even if you’re there to see the headliner, you could stumble upon a supporting act with some killer tracks you've never heard. You might also meet fellow music lovers who would be happy to recommend songs you might not have heard of but could enjoy based on your taste.
CHECK OUT FRINGE EVENTS
Fringe events are often unconventional, and while they might celebrate the arts in general, there are usually some musicians and bands performing.
Take the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for example. It’s one of the most famous celebrations of arts and culture – and while most people associate it with comedy and theatre, it’s full of music offerings from the obscure to the more mainstream.
DISCOVER NEW MUSIC BY PERUSING PUBLICATIONS
Music publications (either online or physical copies) have traditionally highlighted newer artistes while helping music fans navigate the timeless classics.
You pick up a music magazine, for example, and maybe you’ll discover a feature on an old band you’ve never heard before or the latest darling of the contemporary music scene.
ARTICLES THAT SHARE UNIQUE SOUNDS AND GENRES
Music publications can be a treasure trove full of exciting genres and sounds that can enhance your playlists.
You could narrow it down to publications covering specific genres or a broader view of music. Some publications even have local or national music event recommendations to help you discover new music in person (see above!).
‘BEST OF’ LISTS
Most online publications curate “best of” lists. While these can be mainstream, they can also serve as gateways into new genres or artistes.
These lists can be curated in multiple ways, from the best artistes of a specific genre like “Unforgettable R&B Singers That Advanced The Genre” or the best music of any particular era across genres.
Meanwhile, NME has famously curated “the best albums of all time” based on their opinions, while Billboard takes a more commercial approach breaking albums down by sales.
You could also find music publications on social media and be on the lookout for when they share their best-of lists or recaps.
Before you go, here are some recommendations from our archive that can help you discover new music:
- New Music Genres
- Genres that Defined 2021
- House Music Genre With Playlist
- Guide to the Most Important Genres
- Cosmo Vitelli: The Genre-Defying Musician with Playlist
Cover Credit: A Paper Creative
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Writer | Rachael Hope
Rachael Hope is a writer and visual artist. She loves to explore the connections between creativity in all its forms and broader culture. When not being creative herself, you’ll find her practising yoga or exploring nature.