How to dig for good records
October 23, 2006 2:44 PM   Subscribe

How do you find new (not necessarily contemporary) and obscure music? What strategies do you use? By label, era, musician, etc...?

I've been collecting music for a while now, but I don't really have any strategy for finding good music amongst the many bins and bins of records. Basically I just hope to get lucky. I'd like to start building a more comprehensive collection. Just curious how you serious diggers pick out albums.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I rarely pick up an album just based on seeing it in a store. Hearing it in the store is another matter - ask the staff what's playing if you think it's cool.

Most band-based discussion groups I use have regular discussions about other bands. Join boards for bands you like and you'll get lots of recommendations from people with similar tastes. Some will do mix-CD trades where you'll get introduced to all kinds of good music.

Magazines ... The Big Takeover comes out twice a year and has more reviews than I have time to read. Scan through them to find interesting stuff.
posted by valleys at 2:54 PM on October 23, 2006

what genre(s)?
posted by empath at 3:00 PM on October 23, 2006

I think Pandora is an excellent resource. Enter the name of a song or artist, and Pandora plays songs that sound like it. Don't know how far back their collection goes. (A friend likes his own "Rosemark Clooney" channel quite a bit, however.)
posted by CMichaelCook at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2006

Uh, Rosemary Clooney...
posted by CMichaelCook at 3:02 PM on October 23, 2006

Music blogs
posted by TheRaven at 3:07 PM on October 23, 2006

Are you referring specifically to record digging as in collecting LPs?
posted by YoungAmerican at 3:14 PM on October 23, 2006

Find a publically funded/independent/college radio station, then find a DJ whose taste suits you most. Tape his or her shows. Pester for logs.

Put some of your favorite albums into Amazon and see what comes up for "people who bought this album." Read and listen.

Every so often, go into a record store and hit the bins that are not individually marked "Kate Bush," but simply "B." Flip through, grab six or eight likely-looking suspects, and go listen to them.

Grab your salt-shaker and hit the Pitchfork site.
posted by adipocere at 3:17 PM on October 23, 2006

Web radio stations (like plus emusic.
posted by smackfu at 3:20 PM on October 23, 2006

I Love Music
posted by ludwig_van at 3:21 PM on October 23, 2006

I generally find "new" music by finding out who influences the bands I like. These are sometimes really obscure. Also, college radio, as they are known to just throw on tracks from whatever obscure CDs they have lying around. Most college radio stations broadcast free over the internet now - the smaller the station, the more obscure, I think.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on October 23, 2006

I find the boomkat catalog to be quite excellent for semi-obscure electronica/instrumental hip hop. large majority of things have audio samples. Pandora is good for the more popular stuff, but tends not to find the really obscure, vinyl-only-limited-to-100-copies type stuff that will show up on Boomkat from time to time.
posted by juv3nal at 3:29 PM on October 23, 2006

All Music Guide aka AMG.

Look up an artist and you will see cross listed references to all their influnces, similar artists and followers. Also crucial for their disc by disc reviews and daily/monthly picks, or pick a genre and they will list the definitive albums, artists, and songs for that genre. When it comes to indexing music, AMG is hands down the best.

I would also HIGHLY reccomend setting up an (aka audioscrobbler) account and linking it to your music players (it supports pretty much everything out there). You can check out my page for an idea of what it might look like after you have been using it for a while. After you build a good audioscrobbler database and join a few like-minded groups you will find it very easy to find new music you like.

You could also try pitchfork, their top 100 of the year is usually quite informative, although I find AMG's reviews to be much better overall.
posted by sophist at 3:31 PM on October 23, 2006

I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, but I've had good results using Wikipedia.

I recently decided I wanted to listen to more elecronica but had no idea where to go. I was looking up a sub-genre and noticed that there were "related genres" links, so I checked 'em out. The pages had a list of bands that exemplified the genre, so I checked them out. Thos bands had genre listings at the bottom and on and on...

A couple months later I've got tons of new music. Now this will probably only work for newer genres where the classics haven't been established yet, or music styles that have a lot of fractious sub-genres.
posted by lekvar at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Does anyone have tips for collecting Soul 45s?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2006

I have a few vectors I follow:

1) Follow a musician. Folks I like I collect all the music I can by them. Especially relevant to this is finding out what side projects and collaborations they work on. Production work on other people's albums is useful too. I generally don't track down compilation appearances, but that would certainly help me find more other stuff.

2) Follow a label. There's a few small labels that pretty consistently put out music I enjoy. Young labels are easier to do this to, since it's easier to get a handle on less than a dozen releases.

3) Talk to people. If people have similar tastes to me they can be pretty helpful "Oh you like that secede album? Everything else on that label is excellent too" I do this mostly on IRC and IRL. I think it's hard to get to know people in forums. Soulseek is basically designed for this purpose, though.

4) Go to shows. Get there early for the opening act, and know who it is you're hearing.
posted by aubilenon at 3:50 PM on October 23, 2006

I second It can record what songs you've listened to, then it will tell you other users with similar tastes. If you've ever used stumbleupon in firefox, it has a similar feature where after rating enough pages you can see who else has similar tastes and what sites they like. Same idea, see who else is like you and find out what bands they like.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2006

Get to know your local indie record shop - you know, the one staffed by real music fans with the encyclopedic knowledge of music rather than the drones who populate the shed-like stores who just process your card and move onto the next customer; the ones that couldn't tell the difference between Slayer and Sufjan Stevens. Let them know what you're into, strike up a relationship with them and they're bound to let you know what else they've got, or that is coming out soon, that you'd like.

Other than that, I use a melting pot of Pandora, Pitchfork, Metacritic, Popmatters, Amazon's "other people who bought this also bought..." (that one's cost me a fortune), MySpace artist pages (if you can stand the bugginess and have patience, you can get entire tracks rather than 30 second samples) and, this one's UK-only, but Channel 4 Teletext's superb Planet Sound. Oh, and MeFi Swaps, which are pretty-much always cool.
posted by TheDonF at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2006

Heh... is it really so old skool to listen to the radio?

Ah, just download the show you're after then.
posted by chrissyboy at 4:02 PM on October 23, 2006

the tofu hut

check out the links down the right, broken out by genre. this is the definitive list for me. (although it looks like it hasnt been updated for a while)
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:19 PM on October 23, 2006

also, idolator posts some good mp3s, talks about new releases, and says funny stuff about music in general.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:21 PM on October 23, 2006

For old hiphop funk I would suggest WeFunkRadio
posted by Big_B at 4:34 PM on October 23, 2006

I find a lot of new-to-me music I like on Radio Paradise via iTiunes. Their playlist is pretty eclectic.

I like All Music Guide's content, but I don't like their design, so I get the content at
posted by kirkaracha at 5:01 PM on October 23, 2006

I listen to this radio show.
posted by fire&wings at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2006

I have several methods, most of them listed above, but here are 3 that haven't been mentioned:

-Go to some kind of lyrics database and trawl through them. I don't know if this will work for you, but it works for me because I love a good lyric and it often (not always) yields a good song. An example is or

-Download something like DC++ (p2p network) and find other users who have several albums that you like and just download other albums they have that sound interesting.

-Also, compilations. There are HEAPS, hed kandi and ministry of sound are the most obvious, but there are heaps of others, including movie soundtracks -- these will often give you a whole stack of bands/artists to go listen to.

There is actually a website where you type in artists you like and it will give you a list of similar artists.... sorry but my "googlefu" sucks today, I will have to trawl through my bookmarks list later and locate it for you.
posted by mjao at 6:37 PM on October 23, 2006

I have a friend who colllects music. What he likes to do is check, wikipedia, music magazines, and anything else he can get his hands on that has information about music. Also when we go to shows we like to know who's opening and whether or not they're good. All of these things have been suggested already, so my new suggestions are to get on soulseek and download any band that looks interesting. And also go to gnoosic or music map it's kind of like AMG except it seems to me that it lists more obscure bands. I like it a lot better than AMG.
posted by JackarypQQ at 6:47 PM on October 23, 2006

Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Does anyone have tips for collecting Soul 45s?

Assuming you mean the music, not the physical 45's, I would highly recommend Oliver Wang's Soul Sides music blog.

The Number One Songs in Heaven is also good for soul.

Captain's Crate also wonderful for vintage soul.

If you meant the physical records, ebay is probably your best bet.
posted by extrabox at 7:17 PM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

TheRaven said it best.
Step 1: Go to The Hype Machine
Step 2: Search artists you enjoy
Step 3: Go to the sites hosting songs by them
Step 4: Downloaded songs by other artists made in the same post

You can easily find a music match for the most idiosyncratic of tastes.
posted by JamesJD at 7:19 PM on October 23, 2006

I Hate Music
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:47 PM on October 23, 2006

Well, assuming you're not looking to pay someone to build you a hip record collection (though if you are, I'll be happy to take your money and you'll be the envy of your friends), here are the best methods—

First, talk about music all the fucking time. ILX has been mentioned, and it's a great start. Second, fire up Soulseek. Yeah, it's immoral, but I gave up on pretending that I was really going to spend money on out-of-print psych albums from Germany years ago, and aside from a "well, maybe they won't legitimately reissue," I tend to think it's pretty harmless.
That also allows you to explore other folks' collections, and see what they're into, which helps a lot. I dunno. By this point in time, I have a record collection that numbers in the low thousands of albums, about half of them digitized, and a want list that has several thousand more. Most of those wants (and current purchases) have been gleaned from discussions I've had either though SLSK or on message boards.
Third, I guess a "good" collection is always subjective. Like, if you're looking for electro breaks or drum samples, you're looking for something different from the guy who thinks that Northern Soul is an investment, or who just likes to listen to a broad shot. So define what you want, then I can give you a better view.

Finally, if you want to talk about real soul 45 collecting, shoot me an email. I work sidelong for an all-vinyl online store (though we've trailed off for the summer) and can give you more detail if you give me more info. The very basic rule is that if you really want to collect for resale or for a comprehensive collection, you need to get out of the stores altogether and focus on buying huge lots, grabbing what you want out of them, and selling the excess Kenny Loggins off after you track down the Ric Tic sides.
posted by klangklangston at 9:43 PM on October 23, 2006

Definitely cultivate friendships with the people in your local record shop - I've been buying from some folk for ten years now, and nothing beats having a passionate expert who knows your tastes. Though it can get dangerous, in the sense that the moment you walk in the shop you're handed 20 records you know you're going to want to buy. Also, you'll likely get a discount if you're loyal to particular shops, and get the chance to buy stuff when it comes into the shop, before it makes it out onto the shelves.

Does anyone have tips for collecting Soul 45s?

Re-mortgage your house ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 7:56 AM on October 24, 2006

Preview...... some of the band you find using Soulseek. Just listen once and then delete! Or listen once, then move to that Terrabyte RAID box you just got in the mail from Best Buy yesterday!
As for finding bands to download, well, I spend a grip on magazines. CMJ (which I can't seem to find anymore?), No Depression, Mojo, Chunklett, heck, even Spin, Rolling Stone, and Alternative Press to help keep me up-to-date on what 'the kids' are listening to.
posted by Bageena at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2006

Mp3 blogs! Others have already linked to Hype Machine, the mp3 blog aggregator. Type in the name of some of your favourite artists/bands/groups in the search box and you'll find mp3 blogs that have recently posted mp3s by your favourites. Look through their other entries, if they're to your liking too, bookmark them and you have an endless source of music recommendations. Some people have really obscure collections, and love to tell you about and let you sample them. Seriously, with mp3 blogs around, you can never run out of good music - only money :(

Forgive me for not knowing very much about soul music - I'm only just starting to learn about it - or having the time to really check out the links, but you may find Soul Sides (which extrabox has linked to - in fact all his/her links look good) and the links in the Soul Sides' and Tofu Hut's blogrolls useful. Also found this, think it was via Tofu Hut, have no idea what it is but it's pretty great.

Otherwise it's just the usual - magazines, websites, labels, people working at record stores, other collectors... the thing is, music fans love telling other people what to listen to (as I'm sure you know). You just need to find some with similar taste to yours, whether on- or offline, and give them permission to start talking :) Enjoy your treasure-hunting!
posted by Ira.metafilter at 10:01 PM on October 24, 2006

For some types of music Hype is simply not as good as people here are making it out to be. Example: hype draws a total blank for any artist on the spezialmaterial label.
posted by juv3nal at 7:22 PM on October 25, 2006

« Older Help me become Dr. House for one night.   |   What's the deal with this demon? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.