On Finding New Music

I was really happy to learn about the Search Engine podcast. It's hosted by P. J. Vogt – one of the guys behind the also quite good and yet defunct Reply All. Each week he attempts to answer a question. And they're a lot of fun.

In catching up with episodes from last year the "how am I supposed to find new music now that I'm old and irrelevant?" one caught my eye.

Interesting hearing how you form an emotional attachment to music in your teens and early twenties. By the time you hit your thirties it's harder for new things to stick, and you gravitate more to the things that made up the soundtrack to your youth. And it's true, I find myself still listening to those formative years a lot.

I didn't agree 100% with the narrative that it's hard to discover new music these days. In many ways I think it's a lot easier than it ever was. That's probably worthy of a post in and of itself actually. The kids these days have no idea how easy they've got it.

In 2006 I discovered last.fm. Keeping track of everything I listen to was immediately appealing to me and something I continue to this day. But it was so much more than that. It was one of the early social sites. You had neighbors. Like minded individuals who shared the same taste in music. Being nosy about what they had listened to was all part of the fun. last.fm also had one of the first recommendation engines giving users their first introduction to a lot of new bands. It changed the game somewhat.

Fast forward to 2024 and I've been fully invested in the music streaming lifestyle for a number of years now. Spotify is actually pretty good with recommendations. The 'Discover Weekly' playlist comes out every Monday which I've found to be a goldmine. Also if you're listening to a band there will be an insta-playlist generated called, say, 'Depeche Mode Radio' made up of bands that are similar. Taking what last.fm pioneered and raising it a level.

So I'd say we've got it pretty good if you know where to look. It sure beats taping Radio One in my bedroom on a Sunday Evening as a 14 year old. Good heavens, remember when the radio actually played good music?

As a closing side note, PJ thinks he's old. He's 37. Oh you Millennials.

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6 responses to “On Finding New Music”

  1. Adam Bowie says:

    Funnily enough, I was just listening to the latest episode of Search Engine, mostly a long-form interview with Molly Ringwald about fame. And that comes after a two-parter about chicken bones!

    This seems to be the closest I can get to the much missed Mystery Show which burnt brightly for a handful of episodes until it became clear that it was unsustainable.

    Funnily enough, I do understand why people say that discovering new music can be hard. I find that the dreaded algorithms are far too keen to push you down well-trodden paths. You listened to this song from your youth – here are a bunch more songs from your youth.

    You absolutely *can* break out of this if you're prepared to put some effort in and listen to new music via Discover playlists or however. Some of this you may love, and some of it you may hate.

    But I suspect that most don't really do that. Listening to new music in that way is the equivalent of being the person who listened to John Peel back in the day. Some did, but most didn't – that's why his show was always out of peak. But then, at least radio in those days played a few new tracks and didn't just revert to what are effectively "oldies" the whole time. Programmers did try to introduce new tracks.

    Weirdly, I probably still rely on radio to discover new stuff – 6 Music or Radio 3 (late night fare). Oh, and Bandcamp.

    • kevin says:

      A lot of the Search Engine episodes have been great so far. I was a long time fan of Reply All and was thrilled to learn PJ had another podcast that I had completely overlooked. Looking forward to the Molly Ringwald episode.

  2. martymankins says:

    As a life long music loved, I will have to check out this Search Engine.

    • kevin says:

      Search Engine is great and covers a huge array of subjects. A very worthwhile addition to your weekly podcast subscription for sure.

  3. kapgar says:

    I actually have no issue finding new music but I agree that making it "stick" is something else altogether. I don't find myself listening to newly discovered music much more than a month or so beyond when I discovered it. There's just too much going on to which I have access. Before, I only had what I could buy at music stores, borrow from friends or the library, or hear on the radio. Now? So so so much. Too much. I get stuff recommended and only ever get around to maybe 20% of it. Same with streaming video. Not enough time in life.

    • kevin says:

      Oh I'm with you there. There's more content created than I could probably ever consume in my lifetime. My list of TV show recommendations just seems to get forever longer. At some point I feel I should just stop adding them because it's a lost cause. There are only so many hours in a day after all.