5 Ways to Discover New Music (No Algorithms Allowed)

Say goodbye to Pandora, Spotify and Apple?

By The Editors
September 1, 2015 9:00 am

 Hey, early adapter, did you sign up for three months of Apple Music the second you had the chance?

Time’s (almost) up.

The service launched on June 30th, promising a streaming service on par with Spotify but a slightly more complete catalogue (hi, Taylor Swift), personalized playlists and Pandora-style radio stations.

So you have about a week to figure out if it’s worth it.

One reason to maybe stay: Apple has a human side. Besides artists and other music experts providing recommendations, they launched a worldwide radio station, Beats1.

And truth is, Beats1 is by far the best thing to come out of the launch. Turns out having real life people select music works better than any proprietary algorithm.

On a personal level, Beats has opened my eyes to EDM, hip-hop and pop, three of my musical weak spots. Plus, music director Zane Lowe, imported from BBC1, delivers an infectious enthusiasm that recalls Matt Pinfield in his MTV heyday. Fact: I’m more likely to enjoy an unfamiliar artist if the person talking about them is both knowledgeable and passionate (and not in an obsessive, nitpicky Pitchfork kind of way).

So, recommendation: keep Apple, or switch back to Spotify or RDIO or whatever streaming service you want. They’re great for on-demand.

But to truly discover music, try these (human-led) services:

Dash Radio

Like satellite radio without the cost. Officially launched in June, this free, themed set of 60 Internet radio stations features real DJs and a unique set of stations (K-Pop, Atlanta rap, even a station devoted to workouts) mixed in with the usual rock/pop/dance mix.

Annie Mac on BBC1

Taking over as the lead voice on BBC Radio (after Zane Lowe’s departure), Mac hosts a mix of indie and rock on weekdays and a dance party on Fridays. It’s the kind of show where CHVRCHES, Bring Me the Horizon, Kendrick Lamar and alt-J fit comfortably together on a playlist. (Access shows both live and on-demand through BBC’s Radio Player and apps like TuneUp)


It’s like finding that guy/girl who always made perfect mixtapes … multiplied by thousands. 8Tracks features all human-crafted playlists, tagged to activities (“I’d Rather Be at Coachella”), genres (“trap”) and moods (“I’m (not) sorry I puked when I saw your face”). You can search by tags, follow users you like and even get the “why” behind the site’s musical recommendations.


Straight from our managing editor’s mouth: “To me it’s the best music discovery program I’ve ever used. Twitter for music. Choose who to follow, every time they post a track/mix, it shows up in your feed in reverse chronological order. It’s where all the music blogs I used to follow source their music. But now I skip them. Here, the artists, labels and curators I love are curating for me directly.”

Singles Club

More for the music aesthete, but still good for discovery. Singles Club is a subscription-based record club that pairs a limited-run, custom-packaged 7″ vinyl single (new song on one side, interview on the other) from an of-the-moment indie band with a digital music journal. Bonus if you’re in New York: each issue gets a release party.

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