People love getting recommendations for cool new things. Increasing your clout among friends is as easy as turning them on to an awesome new restaurant, hot spot or electronic device. The same goes for passing along kickass music. That's where our music discovery guide comes in.
Anybody can turn on a radio station or Pandora and hear a band they didn't know about before. But the chances you'll actually beat your friends to the punch that way are slim. Add some elbow grease to the equation by actually searching for new music and you can transform your musical finds from mediocre to sweet.
Here are some of my secrets to being that guy with the latest hot music tips.
Smart owners of live music venues link their sites to Facebook pages, Bandcamp sites, and other online info about the bands they have scheduled to perform. This means that simply perusing the list of groups slated to appear at that venue and clicking on the names that sound cool or that you've never heard of can yield sweet results. After all, the venue decided these bands were worth booking, so there must be something to them.
Two of the best venues to use for this practice are Portland's Doug Fir Lounge and Minneapolis' First Avenue. The reason these sites are the best to use is threefold. First, they book a ton of shows with multiple bands performing each night. Second, the venues have great reputations—meaning the best out-of-area/country bands want to play there. Third, these cities have two of the most robust local music scenes to pull opening acts from. Just because you don't live in one of these cities doesn't mean you can't benefit by shows booked in them.
I'm always amazed at how few people show up at concerts early enough to catch the opening act. Sure, it requires planning and sacrificing time that could be spent at happy hour, but the payoff can be huge. If it wasn't for showing up early to shows all the time, I would have missed impressive sets by up-and-comers Pepper Rabbit, The Lumineers, Tumbleweed Wanderers, Dawes and Lord Huron, just to name a few. Most of the time, I purposefully don't do any research on opening bands. Experiencing them for the first time in a live setting can be pretty special. As an added bonus, getting to the venue early often means you'll beat the crowd and won't have to stand in a long sweaty line like cattle, perhaps even missing the start of the main act.
Throughout my time in Bend, the discount bin at Ranch Records on Wall Street has been a huge help to my music collection. Until I started writing for the Source and running my website, new music only needed to be new to me, not necessarily brand-new to the world. And that's exactly what you can find in those $3-each-or-four-for-$10 bins at the back of the store. But it will require some work.
Start by flipping through the CDs and setting aside ones that have cool-looking covers and that you've never heard of before. Once you've got a good little pile, head to one of the CD players, put the headphones on and start listening. If you're a little lucky, at least a couple of albums will end up being something you want to buy and listen to more. If you're really lucky, one album might just blow you away. For best results, this process should be completed once every two weeks.