How can I keep up to date on hit songs before my classmates?
December 10, 2018 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm in college and I wanna be one of the first people listening to the next big hit song. I know that I won't be able to be the first person but I'd like to get in early on the curve. Is there a website I can watch? Mostly interested in rap, but whatever college kids listen to is fine. For example recently it was Sheck Wes Mo Bamba
posted by maxexam to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I listen to broadcast radio quite a bit and I haven't heard that before, so I doubt anything with call letters is going to help. What I'd do is check out some long shows on Soundcloud til you find one you like, with the right amount of talking (or not) and music. If it's just a mix without host, make sure you listen to one that puts tracklistings on the show page.
posted by rhizome at 10:37 PM on December 10, 2018

I'm not convinced MeFi is the right venue for this question... people here are more Fellow Kids than kids themselves.

Accordingly, my real answer to this question is that you should seek out someone who already is a tastemaker in your circles, and ask them how they do it. They might be flattered enough to give you some pointers.

If you really want this old fogey to give some advice, back in my day Pitchfork was big. Maybe the AV Club? I get the impression that both of those have fallen in cultural cachet in the last ten years. Maybe there are Spotify playlists I'm completely unaware of?
posted by crazy with stars at 2:04 AM on December 11, 2018 [18 favorites]

kanyetothe forums
Kingdom Leaks forums
posted by humuhumu at 2:22 AM on December 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is what the Hype Machine is for, no?
posted by Skyanth at 3:42 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not a kid but one way is to just put in the time trawling unknown/lessser known acts on SoundCloud, bandcamp, YouTube etc.

The other thing is you will always have a lot of false positives. If you pass around a new/unknown track you like and it doesn’t become The Next Big Hit on campus, I say you’re still winning.
While impressing your friends with your taste is fun and all, you’ll do better if you reframe this in terms of finding stuff that you like.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:41 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The are Spotify „viral“ playlists for different countries and maybe genres as well? They get automatically compiled through measuring surges in listener activity.
posted by mathiu at 4:55 AM on December 11, 2018

If you are looking for the newest and best thing you can read about it on If you are looking for the newest and most popular thing sometimes you will find it there too but they are more about quality than popularity. You will definitely learn a lot about music and perhaps become the most knowledgeable in your group if you follow pitchfork.

I write all this even though I am not a fan of the site personally. I think they are a bunch of music snob elitists who disdain popular music. Whereas i am a simpleton who likes generic bubble gum hits very much thank you.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 5:25 AM on December 11, 2018

These are things that seemed to have worked for me, but I come from a place where a lot of people still haven't heard of Drake for example. And as mentioned, most likely you'll get a lot of false positives.

Actually take some time to look at the charts and other sort of big venues, like SNL. I've found that for new artists, even if their songs are on the charts, it still takes time before people actually notice and remember them.

Look at supporting acts for bands on tour, and bands that play early at festivals.

Listen to indie radio stations. I've noticed that a lot of times artists that are originally pegged as indie/alternative become the next big thing after getting a lot of airplay on indie stations think, Lorde, Tove Lo, Portugal the Man, Bastille.

It might work to try to pay attention to artists that seem to care a lot about being popular. I listened to G-Eazy a bit when he was not very big, and he had a lot of lyrics about getting top-40 hits etc. I thought it was a bit weird at the time, but a few years later he did.

Another idea is to watch the Love and Hip Hop series. Cardi B came from there, though I dunno if her success will be repeated.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 5:29 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

This question caused me to spend a little time doing time-bracketed month-by-month advanced searches on the "Latest" results on Twitter to observe the hype cycle for a hit song with a distinctive name. One old school thought that came out of that is you could follow the new or climbing tracks on the Billboard Hip-Hop chart, since that still appears to be a thing and did catch the song I searched for within a couple of weeks. But you could probably do the same for songs more relevant to your interests and find other sources picking them up early in the cycle. Another thought I had, though, is that the more you invest in this the more you'll find out where your own taste differs from others', but your low investor friends typically won't mind if something is a few months old, so just trawling "hot" results for the year at Discogs in pretty specific sub-genres could serve a similar purpose.
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:33 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding SaltySalticid that if you want to be the first to know, you'll have to sift through a lot of music that never becomes popular.

Depending on how bleeding edge you want to be, you'll need to go closer and closer to the source. I.E., If you hear a top song on Spotify, you'll likely be ahead of the people who listen to the radio. If you hear a song on SoundCloud, you'll be ahead of the Spotify group (for specific styles of rap at least).

The downside is that there's a ton to go through, and places like SoundCloud have their own niches that don't reflect the wider audience. Most viral songs on SoundCloud never go viral on Spotify, and even fewer make it to Billboard. And many hit tracks you'll hear at parties will never appear on SoundCloud. Mo Bamba first, AFAIK, blew up on SoundCloud before going everywhere else.

Honestly, unless your friends are actively competing to be the first to know, the Spotify Viral playlists are probably the most time efficient way to listen to likely hits before they blow up. Especially if you're looking for hits broadly, and not just a particular genre.

Other rap resources: /r/HipHopHeads, DatPiff, KTT (kanyetothe), HipHopDX (+their Spotify playlists), Genius charts, Magic City in Atlanta, Youtube

Other genres have their own spots--dance music, for instance, goes through Beatport.
posted by matrixclown at 8:24 AM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by tofu_crouton at 8:29 AM on December 11, 2018

I feel like I need to start this comment out by saying I am an extremely white middle aged woman. I have been listening to hiphop since the 80s tho. Personally I've found the Hot 97 freestyles interesting, if only because you can tell if someone has chops or not.

Are mixtapes still a thing? Maybe troll hiphop blogs for frequently listened or popular ones.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:31 AM on December 11, 2018

I subscribe to a podcast called Unsigned Hip Hop. While the creator ignores my pleas to publish a track list, it's still a good way to hear new-ish music.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:49 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but both Stereogum and Pitchfork are about new music for old people.
posted by rhizome at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

I used to rate fresh upcoming songs on a website called HitPredictor. Not all of them made it to the charts but many did and I heard them months before they became mainstream. Not sure if it's exactly what you are looking for but might be worth a look.
posted by Malleable at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2018

It's multi-genre, but I've seen stuff on r/listentothis months before I've heard it on even college radio.
posted by capricorn at 5:49 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thinking further: do you need to be the first to share a cool _new_hit, or is it ok to be the first one in your group promoting an older (awesome) act?

Like I bet most people in college today don’t know tons about hip-hop roots of the late 70s, or Persian anthem trance of the late 80s, or Siberian folk punk of the 90s, etc etc.

And likewise, is it more fulfilling to lead the way to a track that will be blasting next summer no matter what you do; or to spread the love for something that may never reach these people if not for your efforts?

When I was in college, I held higher esteem for folks who got me into stuff that was new-to-me and great, even it was several decades old.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:52 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also as a final specific rec: Superorganism is blowing up at least three college radio stations I know of, plus online etc. Then again they already have a Tiny Desk concert, so maybe not so unknown. Come to think of it, Tiny Desk concerts may also be a good thing to keep an eye on, they play several hits a half year or more before they hit big on charts.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:00 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

This will vary by genre, but:

-figure out where the hits are coming from (another country? A certain region? College towns?)
-listen to indie radio/college radio/music bloggers/podcasters from there
-look at playlists made by people from lots of different demographics.

I had a friend who always made a "songs of the year" mix in December and without exception it would always contain about half songs that would be big alternative radio hits in the US the next year. I learned later he listened to a lot of streaming BBC 6 radio/US-based nonprofit/indie radio DJs and was picking up artists that were starting to hit in the UK or in smaller markets 8-10 months before they got big nationwide.

In my experience the key to being a tastemaker/on the cutting edge in a demographic is to follow people who curate and filter content based on whatever criteria overlap with yours - but to follow a LOT of them from a lot of different places, and then make your own playlists based on the ones you like most. Looking to regions/countries outside your own helps you discover stuff that hasn't hit in your area yet.

Another possible source: compilations by a studio/recording artist/local radio station.
posted by oblique red at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2018

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