The Internet sure did change the way we discover and consume music.
When I was a kid I it was all about vinyl and cassette tapes. I would purchase a pack of ten blank cassette tapes and give them to a friend with instructions to record twenty of their older siblings records. A few weeks later I would get a whole bunch of new music to listen to. For a generation that grew up on Sony Walkmans, this was a way to consume new music before we could afford to purchase records of our own. Between the ages of 11 and 19 I amassed a collection of hundreds of cassette tapes. Most of which I still have.
In retrospect, we had it pretty good. My friends had siblings with record collections that we could consume. In addition, we lived in NY and had access to world-class live music. At an early age, discovering new music and going to concerts became two of my passions.
In the late 20thcentury, technology had two major impacts on the music industry. First, the cost of recording music decreased to the point where just about anyone could make an album. When booking an expensive recording studio was the only way to record music, a handful of major record labels were the gatekeepers that controlled what music the public could hear. Of course, once this financial barrier became a non-issue, significantly more music became available for public consumption.
The second major technological innovation was of course the Internet. By the time Napster introduced file sharing in the late 1990’s the writing was on the wall. The Internet was going to change the way music was distributed and the industry was going to have to figure out a way to reinvent itself.
For music fans, these technological advancements changed the music industry for the better. More musicians had the ability to record their music and the Internet made it possible to distribute that music without the help of a record label. As a result, a lot more music is released now than in the past. Music is also much more accessible. Streaming services like iTunes and Spotify have put millions of titles at our fingertips. More than ever, the problem has now become quality control. With so much new music available, how do we cut thru the crap and get to the good stuff?
Over the years I have visited 100’s of music themed websites. Ultimately I have found a number of sources I trust and revisit on a regular basis. The following are some of my favorite websites for discovering new music:
KEXP.ORG - https://www.kexp.org
KEXP is the radio station affiliated with the University of Washington in Seattle. The station’s website streams the station 24-7 and they have a significant archive of quality content to read, watch, and listen to. Besides traditional dj hosted programming, the station also excels at bringing artists into the studio for live performances. The videos of these performances are available on the KEXP.org website as well as on Youtube. The show “John In The Morning”, hosted by DJ John Richards, is a great way to ease into the day. It streams live weekdays from 6am to 10am PST.
ROUGH TRADE - https://www.roughtrade.com/us/new-this-week
The Rough Trade brand started as a record store in the UK in the late 1970’s. The store was one of the early-promoters of punk rock. Rough Trade later expanded to become a distributor and a record label. The company’s website does a great job of detailing new releases. I check in often.
FORCED EXPOSURE - https://www.forcedexposure.com
Forced Exposure is a music mail-order business located in Arlington, Massachusetts. I admire any business that still sells physical music. In fact, this website is kind of old school. It reminds me of digging thru bins of dusty records. With that said, this website’s super power is that they stock releases that you can’t find just anywhere. Often these albums, by independent and/or international artists, are on smaller labels, and they are not available on streaming services. If you want the music, you need to invest in a record or cd. With the ability to preview a ton of truly alternative music, Forced Exposure is a great source for expanding your musical pallet.
NYC TAPER - http://www.nyctaper.com
If you enjoy listening to live alternative rock music NYC Taper is a goldmine! Going back 12 years to 2007, this site streams 1000’s of high quality concert recordings featuring a wide variety of artists and bands playing in the best venues in NYC and Brooklyn.
BOOMKAT - https://boomkat.com
Boomkat is similar to Forced Exposure in that they both sell physical music like vinyl and cds. In addition, both websites offer the opportunity to discover music from every corner of the planet. For many releases, Boomkat also offers the option for downloading mp3 or flac files. Boomkat features an extremely diverse offering of music with just about every genre of music represented.
People tend to think of NPR as a news organization but I visit their website for the music. The series called “Tiny Desk Concerts” features artists performing live in NPR’s Washington DC offices. These 3-4 song sets, played live over the radio, typically bring out the best in artists. I have seen a number of performances on this show that have helped me to see certain artists in a new light. Of course, the sets are filmed and are archived for streaming on NPR’s website. Under the banner “First Listen” NPR regularly streams new albums, in their entirety, before they are available anywhere else. If you are constantly on the search for something new to listen to this is a good place to look.