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Searching for new music

By Ellie Hudd
On March 12, 2014

If you're like me, you're probably going to use your spring break to catch up on all the things you don't really get to do during the semester: shopping, spending time with friends from home and family, snuggling with your pets, doing literally nothing (staring at the ceiling), reading non-school things. The list goes on. For me particularly, one of those things is updating my MP3 collection.
New music can refresh a tired routine, amp up a workout, accompany you on a long car ride or even just provide some background noise. While the top 40 is inundated with new releases, a lot of the songs that are overplayed on the radio can get tiresome pretty quickly - not to mention that mainstream audiences demand the same sound over and over, and the same few artists, producers and writers will put out the stuff that sells. So what are you to do if you're looking for music that's new to you, in a specific genre or subgenre, or even just to open your horizons to new music you can't specifically conceptualize yet? Much like they say about strangers, I say that music you don't know, by names you've never heard in genres you didn't know existed could be the favorite song you haven't heard yet.
First, there is iTunes. While iTunes tends to feature and advertise the top hits, look around a bit further. Go to the pages of some of your favorite albums or singles - this may seem counterintuitive, especially since you likely already own much of the music found there, but iTunes now offers recommendations based on what you already like. I've found many of my favorite artists this way.
Continuing the theme of using what you like to find new things you'll love, Reddit has a page just for this. The Reddit page /r/ifyoulikeblank offers recommendations of music, as well as other forms of entertainment, based on comparisons to other work within the genre. The advantage (and potential disadvantage) of this method is that the suggestions are made by individual users rather than algorithms, so while they're more subjective, they're also based on lived experience with the work.
Another fun way to find new songs is through music mapping sites. A simple Google search for "music maps" produces some cool sites that take listener preferences and generate "maps" or trails leading out to other artists. From there, you can jump to another artist, and then another, but don't be surprised if you get a bit wrapped up in the process. It can be quite entertaining on its own.
MySpace is perhaps out of vogue, but those who critique the fallen social network do admit its new capacity as a "music site." If you've run out of new music from your favorite artist (any other Lana Del Rey fans out there who wish they could fastforward to May 1?), it's worth seeing what other artists they're interacting with, as they probably have similar styles. Any artist that your die-hard favorite is complimenting online is probably worth your time to listen to.
I'm also a big fan of music channels on YouTube. Majestic Casual, perhaps the most famous (the channel got its own compilation album not too long ago), introduced me to songs that have truly comprised part of the fundamental soundtrack of my life. Other channels include La Belle Musique and The Sound You Need. These also make nice radio stations if you need a break from the radio.
Another great source is 8tracks, which features user-made mixes centered on any theme or genre you can imagine, from "Songs to Stare at the Ceiling To" to "'90s Teen Queen" (the latter of which I made myself). The site operates similar to Tumblr: you can type in any word and mixes tagged with that word will come up. You can "like" certain songs or mixes, if you have a free account, to save them for reference.
Finally, my go-to is SoundCloud. I have gotten lost in SoundCloud for hours at a time. The site is great for discovering new acts, many of whom will reward a "like" or even just a listening ear with a free download of their work. I've made friends with entire bands on this site, and the interface makes it easy to see what your favorite artists are "liking" and complimenting, which will guide your way to a huge mp3 collection in no time.
What are your favorite ways to discover new music, and what artists have you discovered on your own? Tweet me your answers @cnderellie.

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