The Art of Music Discovery as people grow older

Tyler Hayes

The inherent problem with discovering new music is all new music sucks after youth. Chasing down melodies is for those who think they have no time, but don’t have kids. Since music discovery boils down to placing bets on unproven acts, ones that are likely to fade away without a proper goodbye, repeated heartbreak at the cost of valuable time is a tough sell for most people. Myself on the other hand, I think I should be paid a competitive wage for my talent in finding new bands. My iTunes library has playlists with names like “First/New” and “This Week’s New Music,” so I have a hard time relating to those with over 100 plays of the same song. If I’m listening to the same album I was even just a week ago, I know it’s a smash hit. I desperately want to understand the disconnect, the reason more people aren’t scouring the endless internet to find new music. Why isn’t music discovery commonly practiced after youth?

There are periods in life which music grows on trees, you can’t find enough time to listen to all the stuff that’s finding you. This “golden” era occurs during schooling of some sort, often high school and college. Maybe it’s the extended periods of time that need to be filled with conversation before, after, and during classes. It could also be the impressionable nature of the age that drives teens to look for someone to sing the way they’re feeling. There’s a scene in Cameron Crowe’s film ‘Almost Famous’ when Zooey Deschanel’s character sits her mom down to play her a record instead of just telling her what’s wrong. She thinks the lyrics can express something, even better than she can articulate her own emotions. It’s this type of enthusiasm and strong connection to melody that seems to disappear when there’s a mortgage, child, or real responsibility present.

As people get older do they feel like they got slammed with beeps and boops from a computer rather than hearing strums of a guitar? Is it frustration that America, or the closest metropolitan market, reached up from the backseat, twisted the dial and changed familiarity? Because If this is the reason discovering new music has faded from someone’s life, I can assure you, it gets better. There are refuges from such mechanical rhythms and repeating top 40 stations. It’s no longer a brick and mortar record store, however, it’s the internet.

It’s a stretch to say that discovering new music is as much of an art as creating the music is, but it’s still not easy to recommend a universal starting point or support group for those with a music deficiency. And honestly, depending on preferred genre, listing specific websites just isn’t practical. The best bet is to start by asking a friend, which you have 689 of according to Facebook, what the last thing they listened to was. This takes the vagueness out of the question “What should I listen to?” More so than Amazon recommending something to you, your friends that are interested in the same things you are produce the best recommendations for new music, or at least music that’s new to you.

Music is such a subtle rudder in life that most don’t notice it’s value or purpose. It’s entertainment, yes, but beyond the obvious “Dance for me” attitude we have with media, music can be brought along to most situations and compliment the task. Lacing an uncomfortable meeting with the right background music can take all the tension out of the room, or having the right beat when jogging can produce wildly different finishing times. If the end results for why new, fresh, music is needed in someone’s life aren’t clear, then of course no one would put in the time needed to search and listen to new tunes. Keep in mind, the real joy in discovering new music isn’t any particular melody, but the realization that there’s an endless supply of “perfect” songs out there waiting to be discovered.

When the iPhone broke apart the mobile phone business, people instantly connected with it and finally understood why you would want the internet on your phone. Music discovery is still waiting for its iPhone moment. Up until now, discovery sites and apps have mostly been sorting through the mechanisms with which to find songs, not the foundational issue of why you want to discover something new at all. Pandora got close with automated recommendations and Spotify tried over saturation with access to any and everything, but the spark still isn’t there. I found when I discover music that perfectly aligns with my musical tastes, it spills over into real life, every day conversations. As a group, we fill small talk with comments about the weather and work, but how great would it be to hear phrases like “Have you heard the new [blank] album?” or “Did you know [blank] is playing in town soon?” from people’s parents or the grocery checker? I hope that day is close. And with the music industry at one of its lowest points, the potential for growth and newfound profits make it seem inevitable that one day even those beyond youth will be actively discovering new music.



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