You know that little *zing* you get when you discover a brand new song or artist — and I mean, really new? It’s thrilling — just too bad it’s so hard to come by. Not because great new music is rare. Hardly. It’s just there’s a lot of noise out there too. The streaming platforms try to help, but their algorithms can be, well, imperfect. (Bless you, Spotify, but yes, I am already aware of HAIM.) That’s why I’ve spent the past decade or so obsessed with figuring out places and strategies to help in my personal quest for *zing* — and from one musichead to another, I’m more than happy to share:
People usually think of Twitter as a place for screaming hate-matches written in blood, but it can also be an absolute font of leads about who’s up and coming in music. My advice: follow your favorite emerging artists and look out for who they mention, interact with, and follow. It’s not an instant-gratification system, but when an artist you love recommends someone new, you’re often onto something good.
You come to Bandcamp for merch, but my advice is to visit to watch the “Selling Right Now” ticker to identify trends, go down the rabbit hole of artist recommendations, and explore the collections of your favorite power-users.
3. Small Radio
The mega and satellite stations have their purposes, but hometown and campus outlets can often be a safe haven for smart, informed, off-beat DJs who spin local bands not getting play anywhere else.
Time was, this listener-supported site was a real taste-maker. While that’s not so much the case anymore, its aggregated blogs from hundreds of platforms can still lead you to artists you’ve never heard of before.
I might be the biggest fan ever of the mass-appeal r/indieheads, but cool emerging music occasionally pops up in smaller, more obscure subreddits, if you spend the time. A favorite tactic: when I like someone’s song suggestion, I click on their username and follow them to the other subreddits they’re posting on and poke around.
6. Venue Calendars
Going out is coming back, and, for the sheer fun of it, nothing beats discovering new music in person, but one strategy I’ve been using for years is to check out the upcoming shows of small venues known for breaking new artists, and listening to the scheduled artists before they even arrive.
7. Spotify’s “Friend Activity” Feed
What can I say? Check out what your friends are listening to. You might be very surprised, in a good way.
Yes, boutique record labels and PR agencies have an agenda to promote their artists. So take their (free) newsletters with a grain of salt. But take them anyway! In my experience, these write-ups can be the first time you hear about some very good practically-brand-new artists.
I’m obviously not expecting you to be surprised by TikTok as a discovery tool, I just want to make the case that, for it to really work for you, you need to sink a lot (A LOT) of hours into browsing and honing your For You Page. It takes effort to direct the algorithm towards what you’re into, but if you put in the time, you will see a serious uptick in laying eyes on songs before they go viral.
You didn’t think I’d leave out my own company, did you? For the best new music being made by college creatives — and they are a legion, making amazing music from ukulele punk to cry-dancing EDM — please check out our new-and-improved app experience, coming soon. Go to quadio.com right now to sign up for the waitlist, and get ready for the *zing* you’ve been searching for.