Musical Space: Discovery

Oct 9, 2018

What’s your discovery service? In other words, how do you find out about new music?

This is getting to be an important question, and a big problem for music sellers. Record companies and radio are no longer the ones to tell you about new artists. So who brings unfamiliar sounds to your attention? As you can imagine, there are a lot of commercial interests who really want to be your music discovery service-- Curators who turn you on to a new band can make money, both by selling the music to you and by selling your buying history to others. The streaming services all have algorithms that suggest music based on your listening habits. The word “suggest” here means advertising; lots of money has changed hands to get certain music on the lists that Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon are always presenting to you. But music shouldn’t be clickbait. And the most innovative artists likely don’t have the corporate backing to get pushed in front of your eyeballs.

There are some good online resources like blogs and podcasts, but I think the best way to discover music is through the people around you. Much of the meaning of music comes from how it fits within your social circle. Nothing can replace the recommendation of someone you like to hang out with. You’re having a casual conversation, maybe sharing a car ride or a meal, and your friend whips out their phone to play you a track you’ve never heard before. Your heads bob in unison. There are smiles of appreciation. That’s the true joy of discovery.

(Music: Syl Johnson, “Concrete Reservation,” Is It Because I’m Black? (1970)

Found on, recommended by user ProfessorDoctorMF)

For KMUW, I’m Mark Foley


Listening list:
Alternate online discovery:

(guaranteed I’ve never heard of these artists before)
Posters ask “IIL *blank* WEWIL?”

IIL “Etta James,” WEWIL? (recommended by skiphilly):
Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, "Once Upon A Time," Blackwater Surprise (1996)

Robert Bradley learned to sing at the Alabama School for the Blind, moved to Detroit.

IIL “Deerhoof,” WEWIL? (recommended by nogswarth):
Melt-Banana, “Shield For Your Eyes, A Beast In The Well On Your Hand,” Cell-Scape (2003)

From the long history of Japanese noise-rock.

IIL “Punch Brothers,” WEWIL? (recommended by GlassArrow):
Half Moon Run, “Call Me In The Afternoon,” Dark Eyes (2013),


Query: Josquin des Pres:
Emptyset, “Completely Gone,” Emptyset (2009)

Got here from a music-map query for “Josquin des Pres,” looking for music from the renaissance period. The website totally failed, sending me to this piece of experimental techno, which, as it turns out, has a lot of internet lore attached to it. The site did turn me on to a new band, so it still counts as a success.

Query: Vijay Iyer:
Steve Lehman:” Pure Imagination,” Dialect Flourescent (2012)

Yup, it’s the tune from “Willy Wonka”