Many of you have asked me over the years how I find the esoteric and rare gems that I listen to. I never really noticed that I actually did things differently than most people, because these processes came so naturally to me.
My first CD was the rap-classic Luniz “I got 5 on it”. I was 7 years old when it came into my possession and I immediately started rapping along to the song without a clue what it was about.
When I first possessed my own CD I stared at the cover of the “I got 5 on it” so intensely and thoroughly as if to find a hidden passage.
I asked my dad what the logos meant. I wanted to know what the logos and the people behind them had to do with this indescribable sensation that happened in(between) my ears when I listened to this song in particular and music in general. I started to wonder and to explore this world.
One thing that kept me from broadening my horizons earlier was my fear of being confronted with a bigger music lover than myself. I often feel quite insecure in nerd conversations because I am painfully aware of how little music I know of, compared to the amount of music that exists in the world. The thought that my lacking knowledge could be interpreted as lacking devotion to music used to scare the crap out of me, because my commitment to music played a huge role in my self-definition.
If you recognize yourself here, this is step one to find great music:
1. Listen, ask and listen some more
Only through listening will you find more. Be happy to say “Never heard of them”, you might be entering a new plane of existence.
You can only find music if you listen to the music you already like with a certain amount of intensity.
Listen to people talk.
Listen to interviews of musicians you dig.
Listen to that inner curiosity when you see that record or an iTunes/Spotify/Whatever recommendation that somehow piques your interest in an unusual way.
Be sensitive and aware when it happens and then pounce on the opportunity. You might not have found anything, but you just might have struck gold.
Now, asking is the next part of the equation and one I don’t find as hard as I used to. When my existence depended on being “that HipHop guy” who knew “Boyz N Tha Hood” and “Bei Mir” off by heart (I think I still do) I felt very vulnerable around people who knew more than me in “my” topic. Now I’ve realized that even a very random, uninterested person might have come across some artist I have never heard of. This can open up a whole new world.
2. Listen intensely
I have to double this, because it is what this is all about. Listening. Drop your preconceived notions (big note to self). Just listen.
I love the Smiths. I had never heard of them until 2010 (eventhough they were voted Best Band of all time in NME). I was deep in my late John Coltrane, mid MF DOOM phase when my then-girlfriend put on some of Johnny’s and Moz’ magic. I could have just vomited. It was too clean, too miserable, too white.
But she put it on again and on again and when “Bigmouth” came on, my interest suddenly arose. The lyrics caught my ear. This was different. Suddenly, I was hooked. I went all in and listened to “There is a light” in my iTunes alone over 140 times – in a month.
In this case I was forced to listen. I don’t regret it, I actually learned to listen more intently and with more openness and try to be aware of my own recency and familiarity bias.
3. Read liner notes
“”Let Me Ride” contains a sample of “Mothership Connection” written by G. Clinton, B. Collins, B. Worrell and published by Warner Chappell Music (BMI).” One sentence that changed my life.
Next time in the record store I asked about G. Clinton and the mothership connection. I found Parliament. It was like finding a grandparent I had never known of. G-Funk was like a parent to me, P-Funk was its daddy. I felt like I had stumbled upon unheard treasures.
Truth is, I dug that treasure out. Few 13 year old lads will be so deep into their MP3/CD/record collection that they read every single line of every single page and then actually head out to find out more about it. Do exactly that. Especially if you are into HipHop or any form of sample-based dance music (see what I did there? 😉 ) you will find incredible new worlds of music.
Yeah, look for couchsurfers who write something about music in their profile. This way you gain a new texture of travel depth. Not just cultures and locations are new, but you have chosen to stay with someone, who can probably enrich your musical palette. Make it a give and take. Youtube-party, here we go (and take notes or screen pics to remember who that great song was by)!
I still to this day remember which records I bought in Barcelona, London or Berlin.
5. Read blogs and magazines
I haven’t missed a single edition of JUICE mag since January 2001. The day of the new JUICE release was always the day I’d be in school on time, so I could buy the newest JUICE to read on the bus to school.
I like Pitchfork, Musikexpress, Consequence of Sound, Minutenmusik, Harald & Heinz, the list goes on. If you are interested I’ll look through all the sites I follow. There are many. Let me know.
6. Go out
And mainly to places you haven’t been. Don’t kid yourself. When you were 19 you were checking out every new club and every new bar. Now you go to the same 3 spots every week. Break out of your routine, go to another city and go to places that have live music.
7. Talk to DJs
But be kind. Don’t try to impress with how much you know. If the DJ is playing something good, go up to her, give her a thumbs-up, say “Thanks so much for the music!” and, if she’s not just mixing into the next song or fumbling with technical issues and you sense that the situation permits it ask who the song is by. Take a note of the artist and title. Go home and then
8. Check out the record label
Labels might not be as powerful as they used to be, but they are an incredible music-finding tool. If you like Thomas Melchior, you check out the label Perlon you suddenly stumble upon Maayan Nidam and voilà, your life has just been made richer.
9. Read books
I have the “500 Best Albums of all-times” Rolling Stone book. “1000 Record Covers” by Michael Ochse. The list goes on. Resources you can always start off with and then use steps 8 and 10.
Read musician’s biographies (more to come there in my cabinet of curiosities soon). All musicians are fans of music (or at least started off as fans) and you will find out who influenced those who influenced you .
10. Share what you love
This will bring people into your world. They will in return want to share stuff they love with you. It’s the normal ebb and flow. Tweet it, snap it, hashtag it, email it and talk about it. But only when people are actually interested.
11. Join Pref*** and Postf***
Secret, motherfuckers! Haha! But seriously: Start your own Facebook groups with people whose taste you value.
12. Watch documentaries
You know those people who then talk about how great your favorite musician was? Some of them are great musicians themselves. Google them, enter new worlds.
13. Check DJs Charts
Check the charts the DJs you love post. New opportunities arise as you do so.
14. Listen to other people’s playlists and mixes
Is there anything I missed that works for you? Please let me know! via snapchat (moist.computer), via twitter (@moistcomputers), here in the comments, basically anywhere you wish, darling.
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