People who are interested in new music beyond their old, time-worn favorites or the standardized mix of oldies and chart-toppers found on the FM dial have probably tried Pandora, Last.fm, and YouTube by now. Those are indispensable tools for any music fan these days, but they're not the only games in town, when it comes to pleasing your ears with new sounds.
Check out these five ways to discover music, listed in alphabetical order. Some are brand new, while others have been hiding in plain sight all along.
Years ago, kids exchanged mixtapes to cross-pollinate musical discoveries throughout their social circles. These days, quite obviously, most of that action happens online. By borrowing heavily from our tape-trading past, the 8tracks website -- and, starting this month, its impressive free iPhone app -- enable "mixtape" sharing on a grand scale.
Each of these mixes contains eight songs, so by searching for an artist you like, you stand to discover seven more. In addition, you can browse the mixes by genre, popularity, newness, and other factors. So far, 8tracks users have uploaded 234,136 mixes, so there's plenty to choose from.
Music bloggers pay far more attention than the average person to new music releases, because they're in constant competition with each other to deliver new tracks before anyone else does.
The Hype Machine distills the music from a handpicked selection of over 800 music blogs into an easy-to-use music service, which currently exists only in web form. As early as 2009, reports circulated that The Hype Machine would release an iPhone app, but that has yet to happen. The Hype Machine is only available as a website, for now anyway, but the songs play on iOS and other smartphones.
We Are Hunted, which already hosts an online chart that already works well as a way of listening to what people are talking about on the Twitternets, unveiled an iPad app on Monday that lets fans play around with two simple slider controls in order to filter millions of tracks in order to find very specific songs -- highly-danceable reggae, electronic music from the '70s, and so on. Or, you can just search for artists you already know you like and browse from there. (Note: Hunted Media uses playlist technology from The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm.)
This $1 app includes 30-second audio samples, which is a drawback, but on the plus side, it exposes you to more songs per minute, which you can add to Favorites in order to check them out later, or purchase them outright. (For more, see Hunted Media's video demonstration.)
Don't laugh. Granted, there's nothing new about National Public Radio, which launched over three decades ago, but you may not have noticed that the organization has been slowly expanding its online music offerings, which are now quite substantial.
Perhaps the strongest draw is the First Listen section, which offers full streams of prominent albums before they're available anywhere else, but there's plenty more to like: Song of the Day, several streaming radio options, live concert and interview archives, and five regularly updated music blogs. And it's not all for the canvas-bag-toting, Prarie Home Companion-listening types; for instance, today's First Listen is an exclusive full stream of the latest Fleet Foxes record, and the song of the day is Moon Duo's fuzzed-out "When You Cut."
When we're at a loss for what to listen to at Evolver.fm headquarters, we've been increasingly turning to Pitchify, which harvests whatever music has received good reviews from the influential tastemakers at Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound and presents it as a simple front-end to Spotify's freemium on-demand music service.
Those lacking Spotify can still use the site, though they'll have to search for the albums manually on subcription services like Rhapsody or free, on-demand sites like YouTube. Hey Pitchify, if you're reading this, how about integrating with some more services? Not everyone has Spotify (although Google is reportedly trying to change that).
Where are you finding the best new music these days? Please let us know.
Follow Eliot Van Buskirk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evolverfm