Yet another music-related post…
This time, I thought I’d take a more generalised line and share some of my favourite music resources, with the focus being on discovering new artists. It may not be an incredibly extensive list, but it will be thorough, and I can pretty much guarantee that each resource will benefit those seeking to expand their exposure to new music, and ultimately add to their library.
First cab off the ranks is Last.fm, and at the end of this post I have included links to some of the best downloads (I think) the site has to offer. I’m certain that everyone is aware the internet itself is an incredible tool for research and sharing information, but one thing I want to make clear is that I do not in any way support piracy – in any form. (This does not include artists opting to make their work freely available to the public, such as with the downloads available on Last.fm). Piracy is a huge issue and I won’t delve into it at length here and now, but please remember that not all artists make millions of dollars from their work (and that’s just what it is – work - they should be paid for it). I just want to note that once you have found an artist you like enough to add their music to your collection, do the right thing and support them by buying their albums.
I’m quite sure Last.fm isn’t any great secret – millions of subscribers from all over the world are testament to that; but therein lies its power as a phenomenal resource for discovering new music. To start with, you don’t even need to be a member to take advantage of the many features Last.fm has to offer. It’s a (fully customisable radio) station, a gig guide, and a directory to access a massive catalogue of artists world-wide – popular or not, signed or struggling, you’ll be able to look up almost any artist you can think of and find out all sorts of statistical information as well as listen to their music.
If you become a member (requires a software download), the first thing Last.fm does is take a look at your listening habits, via a method called ‘scrobbling’. They use this information to create all sorts of different charts, for you and for the global community. You will be able to see charts for who you listen to the most, which song you listen to the most, which albums you listen to the most and how many different artists you have in your library. Charts can be viewed in a variety of time frames (only becoming relevant once you have been ‘scrobbling’ tracks for the appropriate length of time) – seven day, three month, six month and twelve month charts allow you to see a visual representation of your taste in music over those time frames. (For statistical nerds like me, staring at personal charts can become a time-consuming habit! Not only that, once I learned how to use Windows Excel, my mind started racing with all sorts of ways I could chart my music collection and make comparitive pie charts – I did already say I was a geek…)
So, how does this help you discover new music? Well, it doesn’t really. Where Last.fm becomes an almost limitless fountain of information for new music is in the ‘similar artists’ categories. Last.fm will automatically recommend artists based on what you listen to. There’s no great thought behind their method – they take who you listen to and compare it to other users with the same kind of listening habits. This results in them being able to create a list of other artists a great percentage of people who listen to one artist also listen to. (For example, I listen to Tori Amos, so I am continually recommended artists that many other people who listen to her also listen to, like Alanis Morissette). It’s not exactly perfect (I’m not a fan of Alanis Morissette) but I have been recommended some amazing artists that I otherwise would never have heard of, and recommendations can be dismissed at any time, leaving the way open for new recommendations.
Of course, you don’t have to leave it there – I certainly didn’t. On the basis of one of the artists I listen to, I was recommended My Brightest Diamond (whose every album I now own). I took a look at the similar artists listed on the profile for My Brightest Diamond and had a listen to them – all of whom referred to others that I could check out via their respective profiles. You can take it as far as you want to – or have the time for – but chances are very high that you will not only discover a bunch of new music this way, but find several that you wish to add to your own library. One again, you don’t need to be a member to take advantage of this – all you need do is go to the site and search out some of your favourites, then click on any ‘similar artists’ that pique your interest and away you go.
Last.fm also has many artists that offer free MP3 downloads – ranging from unknown/unsigned artists trying to get their music noticed, to well known musicians who are promoting new releases. Often times downloads are available for a limited time, especially when coming from the more well-known artists, so it’s worth checking often. (My Brightest Diamond does, in fact, offer two fantastic songs for free. That I now own every album is testament to the fact that this method can, and does, work as a way of getting your music noticed. It is never a substitute for the real thing, though!)
Finally, Last.fm also operates as a social networking site. That means that you can connect with other friends and check out what they’re listening to, as well as look up ‘neighbours’ (members with very close taste in music to yours that Last.fm list in a menu on your profile). They also have a forum, and offer the option of creating and/or participating in more specialised group forums.
My favourite Last.fm downloads:
My Brightest Diamond offers Something of an End and We Were Sparkling, from the album Bring Me the Workhorse.
Denali offers Gunner from their self-titled debut, and Hold Your Breath from The Instinct.
Piano Magic offers several songs from various albums and EP’s – particular favourites are I Have Moved Into the Shadow and Help Me Warm This Frozen Heart.
Corrina Repp offers four songs, including Upstairs, Outside and Your Son Now.