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Despite it's limitations, I'm a big fan of allmusic.com myself. Generally, I hear of an artist that I'd like to check out, and I use their recommendations to decide which albums to start with. As you said, not foolproof, because sometimes a group's "definitive" work isn't the thing I'd like best, but it beats a pure random selection. There are other good published guides for a variety of genres--my Penguin guide to jazz is heavily dogeared, and I've still got the first edition of the Rolling Stone guide to rock. The key is to find ones that conform with your own tastes--and then recognize that no two tastes can ever be the same, so eventually you have to experiment on your own.
Typically I've reached the point when at least one of the musicians in the new music I buy will be known to me or at least I know from what "hangout" these musicians are and under who's influence. There are record labels that I would certainly pay attention at the first glance such as Axiom, Subharmonic, Opal, Discipline, Spoon. 99% that I will take anything carying one of above said record labels.
I share music with friends (word of mouth, mp3's.) I read reviews in Magnet and on the web. I keep up on the goings on of musicians I enjoy and their side projects. Certain small record labels have good taste and you can sample new bands on their label on their web site. Matador and Thrill Jockey are a couple that I'm familiar with. Finally going to live shows is a good way to not only see the bands you enjoy but also hear new groups and get into your local music scene (be it rock, jazz or whatever.)
So much good music. -Karl
Completely random, really. I pay a lot of attention to what folks talk about here, and will look deeper when something sounds interesting. More and more, I seem to be listening to music from friends, and friends of friends, or folks that friends are producing, etc. Living in NYC helps a lot, in that regard. Last night I saw two new folks that I had never heard before that I though were downright wonderful -- neither has recorded yet, but I talked to both of them, it's in the works, and I'll be among the first in line when they do. Another buddy of mine, one of the best trumpet players I've had the good fortune of hearing, just finished touring with Ani DiFranco (of all folks) and is playing tonight with a bunch of folks he produced lately at the Cutting Room -- for anyone in town, it's bound to be a great show. Finally, courtesy of a DJ friend of mine from down under, is the concept of the "one-for-one dinner party." Find someone who is passionate about music (most folks I know are wildly passionate about music, couldn't give a damn about fancy equiment, and think I'm nuts for sinking as much $ as I do into gear) and get together to simply trade off tunes. "You've heard this one a million times, but this is why you should hear it again for the first time..." to "...you haven't heard this one, but here is why you should give it a listen...," and everything in between. I try to talk music with just about everyone I meet, even complete strangers, and just keep trying to feel my way. Sometimes you get lucky, and it's those finds that make it all worth while.
I read a lot of music reviews from various music mags, such as Downbeat, Blues Review, Gramophone, TAS, Stereophile, TSS, etc. Then I usually go to a couple of Internet sites to see if I can find clips of the music to listen to. Tower Records often has sound clips for albums that it is selling -- they are only 30 second clips of various tracks, but they still give you a decent idea of the material and the performances.
Downbeat mag recently started a subscription service ($18.75 for 3 months) that allows you to access a number of recordings of all types: rock, jazz, blues, country, hiphop, folk, New Age, reggae, gospel and soul, etc., and then listen to and download entire songs. If the Downbeat site interests you, I made a post about it several weeks ago which contains more info and how to sign up. (The nice part of this service is that there are no "Napster" issues -- everything is licensed, so you get music fairly cheaply while the artists still get their piece of the pie.)
I would recommend you go to www.knba.org and stream the radio station. They play eclectic and amazing stuff below the "radar" of commercial schlock. They also feature David Dye's World Cafe which I would recommend to anybody checking out new artists. I have been introduced to some fabulous artists such as Patti Griffith, Eliza Glickenstyn, Willy Porter, Anders Osborne, and Greg Brown just to name a very few. They also played David Gray like four years ago before he exploded with "white ladder". Happy Listening
I use many of the techniques noted above, but the last several months, I've been exchanging "sampler" CDRs w/ other A'Gon members and have really come up with some great new artists-- well, new to me. These include Allison Moorer, Alison Krauss, and Jacintha. Other A'gon members have gottem me started on Shirley Horn, Diana Krall and some I can't think of.
I mostly HATE to read music reviews unless they are very specific about the type of music they are taliking about. So often, the reviewer gets into some kind of $(*)%#@*(^%$# deep rooted-emotional-psychoanalysis of the singer/group, and in general write for themselves or other reviewers in a manner that leaves me wondering what the hell they said, or even what type of music they are talking about. Sorry, pet peeve of mine. Craig.
Notice how no one mentions conventional radio. (Now, maybe instead of 'radio', we should just call it 'ClearChannel'.)
A decent number of my finds came from an AP 'best 100 albums of the 90s' article/thing, including My Bloody Valentine's fantastic 'Loveless'. And often I will note what some artist i already like enjoys.
Radio is definitely not the venue of choice - there is way too many ways to listen to music (new or familiar) without putting up with commercials.
I'm somewhat limited in that I have very few acquaintances who actually actively participate in music - hence, very little sharing of "finds". I do occassionally follow up on titles mentioned by reviewers and have found some good stuff that way.
One way I do NOT try out new music is the end-of-the-aisle highlight CD's with all the exciting description. Usually it's tied to a listening station, but I'd say that less than 10% of these highlighted CDs I've ever purchased have proven satisfactory.
I like the suggestion (and realize that I use it to an extent myself) of paying close attention to certain labels. This not only often leads to interesting new music, but often recording quality is somewhat consistent from one release to another. -Kirk
I wish the music industry would encourage CD libraries ... like Blockbuster or Hollywood, but for music. The CDs they loan could be digitally copy protected up the wazoo (ie special discs .. not the usual discs) to prevent piracy.
I suggest a charge of $1 per week per CD borrowed.
I used to work at a company where the employees had formed an LP library. I'm sure according to music industry execs this was highly illegal. However the chance to listen to new artists who I would never have otherwise considered led me to buy more new albums and get into more music than I would ever have otherwise done.
The music industry is killing music by ....
1) Trying to kill online mp3 sharing, instead of using it to generate interest. Offering no way to "try before you buy".
2) overpricing CDs ... $16 is ridiculous (especially for back catalog albums of dead artists)
3) Over promotion anf over hyping of talentless teen bands, to the exclusion of all else.
4) Fighting their demise with litigation and copy protection technology which just hurts consumers and does not affect the professional CD pirates.
Down here in New Orleans we're blessed with a wonderful FM station: WWOZ. This station is volunteer based, not college affiliated, and plays a variety of roots, folk, blues, and jazz music.
The various shows are done by DJ's who love the music and often bring in obscure treasures from their personal collections. The mix includes both local New Orleans and national/international releases.
As a jazz fan, I usually listen to the evening jazz shows on my ride home. It's a rare week when I don't hear a new artist or CD that I just HAVE to have!
I've seen no other station like it in my travels from coast to coast.
BTW they now webcast - check out www.wwoz.com