Thursday, 16 April 2009

Do you trust anyone?

Following on from last weeks post about street teams I wanted to open up a new discussion. Indulge me, if you will.

From the brilliant responses I received via the comments, email and Facebook I think the first, alarmingly obvious, conclusion to be drawn is that whether or not the model can still work, the term "street team" needs to die. So many people appear to have negative, often juvenile associations with the title and seems to be putting people off like the metaphorical vocalist who can't hold a note stops people hearing the potentially wonderful music behind him.

Over the past few days I've started to draw a few conclusions from the feedback and have started to assemble a plan. Well, three plans, actually. It's very early stages right now but I feel as though my head is filled with lots of good idea dots, I just need to find a way to connect them. One of the biggest things currently halting this process, however, is a big question. So big, in fact, I hoped you might be able to lend me a hand with it...

How do YOU find new music?
This is something which I'm expecting to throw up a whole manner of different answers, most of which are likely to pinpoint how things have changed over the past few years. If I'd have asked you this question 1, 5 or 10 years ago, imagine how you would've answered and compare it with today.

The internet, for all its wonder, is killing printed media. Magazine sales are declining as our expectations increase and waiting until the following day/week/month to find the latest news can no longer be tolerated. Myspace, podcasts, Last.fm and more recently, Spotify, have hammered nails into the coffin of the radio, which more so than ever before boasts a listenership of casual consumers, losing many of yesteryear's niche genre fans. MTV no longer show music, so that's a nonstarter. Myspace, as I've ranted about before, is a dead scene waiting to happen and the other social media platforms are becoming increasingly filled with junk. The weeds are hiding the flowers.

So who do you turn to? Does your faith still lie with the conventional printed or aural media? Do you use internet forums and trust in the opinions of strangers? Do you exchange recommendations, MP3s or maybe CDs with your closest friends? Do you need a combination of all of these elements to fall into place before you've heard a bands name enough times to prick your curiosity? Or do you not trust anyone, instead choosing the lonely path of self-discovery, endlessly trawling through the clutter of disappointing music with the lure of finding Your New Favourite Band just enough to keep you going?

As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts and preferences in the comments or via email. Feedback is always appreciated and extremely useful too. If it stops raining tomorrow I'm planning a day out with my old pal, the laptop, to have a read through and see if I can construct something which might just help us all out. No pressure then.


19 comments:

Front Room Records said...

I tend to use music blogs, great source is Hypem.com
Once i've found a blog site that is worth checking then i'll bookmark it, possibly read the archived posts etc

Also support bands or touring bands
If theres a band I like and I've not heard of the support act(s)
(even if i don't go to a show) I might check out there myspace and see what there like.

I think its more down to an inquizitive nature, i like to find the music rather than being forcefully introduced to a band through street teaming or similar mass promotion.

Kev said...

Ah yeah, I use Hype Machine quite a bit, and www.elbo.ws although both require a fair amount of time to commit to them properly. I keep meaning to sit down and go through them, bookmarking some really good blogs but still haven't found the chance. One day...

That's a good point about touring bands, and one I used to good effect when I was first getting into indie music.

Thanks

Ryan said...

The main one for me has been Rock Sound magazine, it has helped me find so many new bands and then i will use myspaces to see friends and bands.

I am finding it harder and harder to find quality acts becasue of the flood of crap which hits myspace everyday,
BSM has always been like a starting point aswell, find a band on the label adn then look at their friends on myspace whatever

Its like what Front room is saying, i never accept emails from bands or friend request, its more satisfying to find a band for yourself.

Sexy? No! Promo said...

I find myself regularly uninterested in music blogs, often filled with with boring, old, wrinkly bloggers who are trying to maintain their "coolness" by telling us about the new music they know... Yes, it may be new, but it doesn't stop it from being awful!

I generally find new music by getting myself up off my arse, and going to shows, more often in other cities. I like to travel to shows and see what is going on in other cities scenes, that way I meet new people, and get an idea of what is pushing the music scene in that particular city.

Derby is a small place, so I'm out of it as much as possible!

dan said...

I just had a thought whilst commenting on the street team blog post.

When bigger bands tour (who have a similar target audience to BSM bands) could you try and talk them into taking BSM samplers out with them - every purchase at their merch stand gets a free a compilation. If I was unsure of about buying a CD or tshirt at a gig but would get a free cd only if I bought something, it might encourage me. Also, I would probably value it more because it hadn't been thrust into my hands whilst queueing outside so I would probably keep it, and maybe even listen to it.

Thats probably quite an expensive way to spread the word though, I guess.

Jay said...

I do the same as the first person commented said re. music blogs, but I've found one of the best ways for me to find new bands is still word of mouth. I know a lot of people who listen to a wide variety of 'alternative' music, and we often swap hard drives and use sharing folders on msn to discover new music.

I also still use 'top friends' on myspace of the bands I'm especially keen on - not always effective, but has led to some nice finds. Same goes for messaging bands and asking if they can recommend anyone. Of course this will always be hit and miss, but as much as anything, it's interesting to see what people in bands I like happen to like themselves, sometimes allows influences to become more obvious. I guess this ties in with support bands - seeing a band and them bringing their friends' band along to support them - doesn't always work, but there's been times I've gone to a show for a headliner, and found the support band to be my 'new favourite band'.

Then of course like you mentioned in the initial blog, last.fm and spotify are great, and the latter especially has helped me listen to bands that I've often heard mentioned in certain music circles, but never really gave much of a chance before.

I think the BSM podcasts and the collections that have been released so far are still two of the best ways of getting into new bands. I was a fan of Shapes/Blakfish/Tubelord through friends, but getting into those three and then getting the podcasts and checking out other BSM bands has resulted in me finding loads of other bands that I just can't stop listening to.

I've often found just checking out any bands on any UK labels I already know (eyes of sound, shelsmusic, BSM, beggars banquet etc) leads to some nice discoveries.

Nicolas said...

I'd say that the best way for discovering music is hanging around on band's myspace pages going from one band to another. This way, you end up discovering a thousand bands and maybe 20 worth. But of course, you must have a lot of time to spend.

Last fm is quite good to discover music in a similar genre, if you listen to math-rock for example, you listen to the Tera Melos radio and end up listening 20 other bands related in some ways or others.

Going to shows is the best way to discover upcoming bands, but these days, people tend to be less curious and they'd rather tend to pay super expansive tickets for well-known acts rather than spending a few coins to discover new bands.

The written press was always a good way for me to discover bands but now, it feels like it focuses itself on bigger bands and it's not interresting for people who digs underground music more.

I'd say that playing in a band in itself is certainly the best way to discover new music. When you tour you have the chance (and sometimes definitely not) to share the stage with bands you haven't even heard about, but I mean you don't have to be this kind of band hiding itself in the backstage before and after the show.

So basically, I'd say that you must have a taste for adventure and discovery. Because, most of the people (at least those I know) won't even make some efforts to discover new things. Forcing yourself to listen to a track for more than 30 seconds help (you might not like the intro of a song, but the rest may be killer). You just have to think that most of the people are happy with what's on Mtv and in the press and won't even try to find more.

Kev said...

Thanks for all of the brilliant comments so far, some very interesting points here

Nicolas, if I had a scrap of musical talent I might consider starting a band and finding new ones, but I think that one's out the window unfortunately! :-)

I don't really use Last.fm (nowhere near as much as I should by the sounds of it, anyway) so don't fully understand it. If I have a new band which I think might appeal to fans of, lets say, Minus The Bear, how easy is it for me to tell them about it? Is there anything I can do to get MTB's fans listening? Or is it just a case of waiting and hoping everyone discovers the new band themselves?

dan said...

you could maybe cheat and set up a couple of accounts and get each of them to scrobble just minus the bear and the new band. It will probably take more time than its worth, I dunno how many people really listen to the last.fm radio anyway, I've been scrobbling what I listen to for years but never pay attention to what it recommends.

Tom Hobbledehoy said...

Myspace gives me a quick but somewhat good impression of what the band is about... how I arrived at their page I suppose is a bit more tricky.

Extremely Unhygienic said...

I look on a few blogs but mainly from recommendations from friends on forums. Sometimes support acts for bands that I like, at festivals etc. Almost never from people flyering or from magazines.

saam keephopeinside said...

re: street teams - I think being involved with one is almost a rite of passage. Certainly, when I did work experience at one of the music marketing companies a few years ago, I felt a little bit more knowledgeable about the industry. They still have their place I feel.

As for finding new music, blogs and certain radio shows (John Kennedy on XFM, Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens on Radio 1) have been a continual source of great new music. Since I started doing my own blog three years ago, a lot of great bands come to me which is nice.

Nicolas said...

It's true about being in a band, but you don't have to have talent to be in a band, there are so much examples that proves it right ;)
Driving a band or doing the merch for them is basically the same thing : you lift the same heavy amps, you see the same bands and drink the same beer ;)
Regarding the last.fm thing, I'm not an expert but I think that it depends on how the band is tagged, if in the band there are words such as math-rock, minus the bear, tapping, there might be some chances that the artists will be assimilated to one another.

About finding new music, (but I'm an old man), I remember spending hours in records shops, listening to all the records with nice covers or with names that I thought were interresting. But as I said before, time has changed.

Nicolas said...

One last thing are the tiny stickers you sometimes find on album :"For fans of X, Y with a touch of Z" always atrracked my eyes.

Meat Pie Promotions said...

One of the main ways I used to find music and still do to a certain extent is searching through the myspace top friends of bands I know and already like. This then acts like a trail and along the line I would often find bands that interested me and after a few listens might end up being something I loved. I used to think this was a great method as it meant you could often pick up on stuff just as it had been created in the stages before even magazine's had picked up on them. It's probably less of a tool now as I think my opinions are quite tough and I know the bands I like.

It would be interesting to know how your normal run of the mill teenager finds new music these days.

samsmifff said...

For me, it probably comes down to where I live, Kingston. Having somewhere like Banquet Records on my doorstep has been amazing for finding new bands; whether they've been hyped by members of staff in the shop, played at local gigs or just had a track played at a club night. Also, the gigs put on by This Is Not Revolution Rock in the area tend to feature bands that meet my interests and I probably wouldn't be aware of the likes of Blakfish or Shapes otherwise. I read this website and would have been aware of those bands through here, but obviously there's far too much on the internet for me to actually filter out what I might like. So in that sense, I'm more likely to find new bands by seeing them live than through the internet.

Sometimes I'll listen to bands that I've noticed sharing bills with bands I like or are in bands top friends but I don't find this particularly useful. Considering the sort of music I like, I'd expect to like someone like Super Tennis, but I don't pretty much because I can't really tell them apart from a whole bunch of other bands I'm into, which is pretty boring really.

I don't really read general music blogs but hearing bands hyped on sites like Drowned In Sound and Punktastic by users who I seem to have a fairly similar taste to me often encourages me to find out more.

I've also found myself listening to the radio more recently in the evenings. Colin Murray plays an incredibly diverse mix of stuff on his show and I've also heard good things recently on Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephen's shows.

Last.FM and Spotify are good for me up to a point. I don't use last.fm as much as I did before Spotify came about and I don't really think I find too much new stuff through Spotify.

All this seems to answer your actual question, but not help you in finding ways of getting new music into peoples ears!

coxy said...

As long as I've been going to gigs, I've found that turning up for the support acts is the most obvious way of checking out a band and finding 'new music'.

If I really like the band, I'll try and spread the word myself through telling my mates (word of mouth) and via the ways and means of the internet (blogging, yeah?), but I've found that it's more common for people to disregard word of mouth or blogging recommendations. Maybe this is just a sign that I'm into shit music, or maybe it's actually what happening - that it's clearly harder to spread the word of new bands.

Being able to experience the band for yourself is something that's clearly a focus in discovering new bands and listening online is a key part of this.

Whilst sites like MySpace die in favour of Facebook - which isn't as accessible for bands as MySpace was - there are music sites and services like Last.fm, who have an excellent recommended radio service (if only they'd sort out normalization on tracks) and 'related artists' - each of which are exquisit methods of discovering new music. I'm a big fan of last.fm.

One site I discovered last year that is becoming increasingly popular is thesixtyone.com (if you sign up, you were referred by coxy) - via means of a point system for listening, liking / recommending track, it encourages users to discover new music, and all the music on the site is uploaded by the artists themselves. It's pretty good.

saur.us said...

Personally - after having a good read through these comments - it becomes clear that myspace still has its place (no matter what your column said :) ) It's obvious that facebook for social networking is a great tool, but for music it doesnt really work. I promote music in Nottingham - alot of BSM stuff - and its true that the only people on myspace are promoters, bands and labels, no one really uses it for networking anymore. however, for a reference to a band it's still number 1 in my eyes. I find alot of my music through myspace, admittedly through top 8's (god i'm so 2000)

If facebook had a better space for bands it would be brilliant. I suppose that comment didnt really help you as you cant change facebook.

For example though, I'm putting Shapes on the 7th May - and I trawlled though Facebook on BSM's page, Blackfish's page, and PABH's page for fans in Nottingham and sent them all induvidual messages.

I suppose in a way promoters are like a street team.

Maybe that helped.

Matt said...

Hmm..Interesting debate as I am intrigued as how to the average person thats not mad into independent music would be reached if I want to tell them about a band. So in that sense, I'm not the best person to rant on but anyway....

Last.FM is good and although most recommended bands you know about there's usually the odd one that you haven't heard before. It's on a fair amount in our office. Spotify is also a good way to listen to music, albeit a somewhat limited library, I've found Last.FM will have the more unknown artists. I don't really use Last.FM at all for networking. Drowned in Sound, great for news, Loud and Quiet is a cool London free mag (yes, the printed kind!), some of it's online, which always has a new band or two I've never heard that I like, they also act as promoters for a London night. I also bumble around pitchfork now and again for US stuff.

I schedule all the gigs for www.beatcast.tv (a fair amount of BSM bands) and I use myspace a great deal as it is still the most up to date source of info for most bands, as I need to know who's playing live, where and when. This is a tool though, but does provide a window into all the bands on those gigs...

Which leads to perhaps my personal favorite way of discovering new music which is bands in support slots at gigs I go to (some of which you'll find on BeatCast - see Pennines and Brontide www.beatcast.tv.

In this sense the promoters that put on the shows that I like are a very important part of discovering 'new' music.

This then leads to the labels these bands are on, or have released stuff with, which is probably the next place for me to discover music, but then I know what I like.

I use Facebook/Bebo etc to mail out to members, and I get info from other groups, bands and promoters, but I don't really discover much, if any, new music from them.

I read some music blogs here and there, as one does, if time permits......but don't really discover much new music there either.

So then, every piece plays it's part, but basically all hail the promoters, labels and support acts I say!