We all have that one friend that we rely on for new music. The one who is always the designated DJ at the parties. The one who tells you which album to download and what concerts to go to. We rely on said friend… and occasionally we envy her… How is she always up to date on the newest and dopest tracks?
Well, let me introduce myself, I am that friend. In fact, for the duration of this article, I am your friend. Next time you’re at a party and someone asks ‘‘who wants to DJ?” YOU will confidently take on that role because I, your friend, am about to hand over my secret sonic weapons.
Discovering new music is no passive talent, in fact, I dedicate my Sundays to not only my couch, but more productively, to wandering through these four online resources. Monday comes, and the soundtrack for my week is prepped!
Hype Machine (Hypem)
Hype Machine is already well known as a tool for discovering new music, but don’t let its fame suggest that it’s a “mainstream” music source. Quite the opposite, Hypem draws from 723 music blogs around the world, handpicked by their staff. The founder Anthony Volodkin aimed to create a culturally rich platform for discovering new music. They post music from their blogs and categorize it under 13 genres. Though, you can also narrow your search by “Latest,” “Popular,” “Remixes Only” or “No Remixes,” or by blogs in your country. The layout of the app is slightly different than the website, but you get essentially the same options. As a user you can follow certain people and certain blogs, and can save your “loved” tracks into a playlist. I appreciate what Hypem is doing, insofar as they are giving a voice to all these niche blogs, and as a result, they cater to huge a variety of tastes. One of my favorite features, is their weekly “stack.” Every week Hypem puts together a mix and sends it to subscribers. It’s a quick and lazy way to feel updated on new music.
Musicroamer is a very different sort of online experience than Hypem — it has everything to do with what you input into the website. Essentially Musicroamer provides you with a mind map of related artists depending on the artist you input. Then, you can continue clicking on each artist and Musicroamer will create a mind map around that artist, and so on. So, say you’re really digging James Blake’s sound right now and you’re looking for artists that give you a similar vibe. As you can see, Musicroamer will connect you to Flying Lotus, Jamie xx… and many more.
As you may have noticed above, you also have the chance to listen to snippets of each artist’s music, which is a useful feature on the website for quickly weeding out who you like and who you don’t. The only warning I have for you with Musicroamer is that the less known the artist is, the less accurate the graph will be. With that said, Musicroamer is a tool I constantly use to help me compile mood-based playlists, or just to recommend artists to friends whose taste I already know.
I recently discovered The Yams through a friend of mine who works there. It’s a relatively new service, still in beta testing, but the second my friend introduced me, I was already a supporter and promoter. The site’s welcome page describes the service as a chat-based service for music recommendation and personalized playlists. Now, you might be thinking, “Oh I can get a personalized playlist in Spotify or Pandora…” Well, yes you can, but those are typically generated by algorithms. The Yams uses real people! (yes, they still exist online!), and my evidence for this is that I know one of their tastemakers. The way it works is that you text them with a track or artist you’re recently digging, and the kind of playlist you want them to make.
Apologies for my spelling mistakes, but as you can see, you can request any kind of playlist and they will compile it on whatever platform you choose (e.g., Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube, Deezer, Rhapsody, Tidal, etc.) Typically, a playlist will be ten songs, and despite the vagueness of my requests, their playlists are always on point! What’s more, over time they’ll begin to push you exclusive playlists and content they think you’ll love. The idea is to get to know your taste personally. If you haven’t already picked up on it, I am very enthusiastic about this service; it’s personal, and truly customized. As I mentioned, The Yams is still in its beta testing stage, so it’s important that we give them feedback so this can become a thing!
EARMILK is the icing on the cake of music discovery, and my personal favorite. Why you ask? Because it melds together music journalism with Hype Machine-style music blogging. EARMILK is the kind of website you can spend hours on and constantly find new engaging content. Like Hypem, EARMILK categorizes music according to six genres, but under each of those six are four to six sub-genres. Within hip-hop, for example, they sub-divide the genre into trip-hop, glitch-hop, jazz hop, rap, R&B, etc.
If you’re like me and you categorize your playlists, this feature is truly heaven sent. Finding appropriate genres is always frustrating, and I end up having playlists with very confusing titles like “Hip-Hop/Not Rap/Kinda Electronic/Beats/…” and the slashes go on.
EARMILK also focuses on music journalism, they review albums, gear, and events. Their “Voices” section features fascinating articles and commentary on the music industry and different artists in an op-ed style. More, they have a “Series” section which is a collection of tracks, much like Hypem’s “Stack,” but under certain themes (e.g. Flashback Friday). EARMILK has everything you need to feel updated on all fronts of the music industry both in regards to news and music. Out of all the tools I’ve mentioned, EARMILK is the most complete. I’ve been using it for years and have never gotten tired of their content. And if you do find yourself bored on EARMILK, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, click on the milk carton logo, and give it about 10 seconds…
There you have it, my secret sonic weapons for discovering new music. Now go! Be free! And conquer the world of cool music friend-dom, like Napoleon… but with music… online…
Are you the music-savvy friend of your crew? Share your sonic weapons in the comments below!