Diggin’ beyond the algorithm

Discovering new music recommendations through people

2017 looks to be another bumper year for albums, with widely anticipated releases from the likes of Beck, Dirty Projectors, Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins, Japandroids just to mention a few. This follows on from what was an exceptional 2016, for stellar releases and vinyl in particular,“Vinyl records are projected to sell 40 million units in 2017", with “sales nearing the $1 billion benchmark for the first time this millennium” and there are many pieces on how Wax could achieve sales figures not seen since the 1980s”

  • Blackstar was the most popular selling album of the year 2016
  • At least 30 albums, sold more than 10,000 copies in 2016

For many, the fascination with vinyl records has never diminished and record collectors still enjoy diggin’ through the crates for elusive favourites, but there is a younger generation being attracted to this special physical music format and it is not just the hipsters.

Keeping the format alive received also a boost this year with the news that“Viryl Technologies is producing a pressing machine system”.

I used to find myself having lots of the same conversation about music (old, new, borrowed, streaming, playlists, albums)and vinyl with other music enthusiast colleagues and I thought to try to start some more organised conversations to see how those other record lovers, collectors are discovering their vinyl recommendations. It first started as a bit of fun, with sharing images of folks’ turntables in their various diy states, lists of second hand online vinyl shops, discogs apps and then alternatives to the discogs apps for vinyl management, some documentaries about vinyl, guides to How to Buy the Best Turntable, other tables which might be of interest and general news about events, releases on Record Store Day or news items, like where a startup called ReplyYes,was using a chatbot to see $1million uptake in records in 8 months.

Vinyl subscription clubs

We also shared news about the various vinyl subscription clubs that maybe of interest, the music blog Drowned in Sound shared a good piece on that topic, including highlighting That Special Record for underground electronic, our group has got some really decent records from it and had a positive experience overall from it.

Music Discovery

In the meantime, GQ posted suggestions on how to find new music

Our ‘vinyl club’ quickly gained momentum in this area and has introduced many new and old records and led me to borrowing a Jackie Mitto LP, who was a huge influence on Augustus Pablo, which I have subsequently purchased and being able to trace the music and that influence, is what remains a delight for any music fan.

Prompted by this ‘Under rated’ records link, a question was circulated to members asking for their most under rated or must listen to albums, from any era and why are they special? Some of the replies included:

The first LPs of 3 bands I used to enjoy going to see in the early 1980’s, none of which had any chart success
-This is Zero — TV21 
-Independence Day — Comsat Angels
-All About You — Scars
Trivia:A Scars single was sampled few years ago for Lemon Jelly’s “The Shouty Track”
TV21 surprisingly split at the peak of their popularity — 3 dates into supporting the Stones on their “Tattoo You” tour.

The Comsat Angels were one act that stood out for me and who had completely passed me by, from a period of music I thought I knew pretty well. I really cant recommend that ‘Independence Day’album highly enough. I didn’t remember them making it into Simon Reynold’s excellent Rip it up and Start again, which I had thought was the definitive book on that music genre. So, in this social media era, I asked Simon

Other recommendations from the group included:

  • Roky Erikson — The Evil One
  • Jeff Buckley — Sketches for the my sweetheart the drunk
  • The Pharcyde — Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
  • Frank Zappa — Joe’s garage Acts II & III
  • Arthur Russell The world of Arthur Russell
  • Donald Fagan — “the Nightfly”

Who knows, there could always be a alternative career in it for us?

Discovery through books

The US-based vinyl subscription club Vinyl Me, Please even produced a coffee table book available on Octopus, a “visually handsome guide to the 100 albums you need to own on vinyl”.

Dan Hegarty’s Buried Treasure

On that subject, there is that lovely additional context, from a discovery of a forgotten album when found through a book, where you can read and immerse yourself while listening to it.

2fm Radio DJ Dan Hegarty’s Buried Treasure, now has a second book in the series, to check out for ‘Overlooked, Forgotten and Uncrowned Albums’ with accounts, stories and album reviews that have made an impression on musician Imelda May, actors Cillian Murphy and Aidan Gillen amongst others.

Another book example that a record-crazy friend of mine shared, was this listening companion book which has all sort of goodies, including some music essays. This alongside using the reach of any of the streaming services, is a pleasure to dip in/out of and prompts the re-discovery of acts like Flock of Seagulls and their wonderful debut record featuring that outstanding I Ran single, to finding out more about bands like Sky Cries Mary and reading more about Doctors of Madness, when prompted by their album 'Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms' making it into the author’s 10/10 album list

Music discovery through Twitter

When using Twitter as an interest network, it really is a remarkable resource. (For reference, see How Twitter made me a better scientist on how to use the network effectively)

I joined twitter in 2010, mainly to find new what people were listening to, music recommendations and stayed after meeting some interesting people. More than 10,000 tweets later, I am still enjoying it and still finding all sorts of excellent recommendations across all genres:

Worth also mentioning, that there is a Twitter-based listening group, called The LP Group, who have a great feed for album lovers and they have regular polls, including different themes, such as ‘lost classics’,‘Movie Soundtrack’, ‘Leonard Cohen Tribute’ and a great list for ‘Album of 2016’

Even more under rated albums out there, yet to be found

But the quest continues and the real beauty of music discovery from which ever method you choose, is that the quest has further proved to me, that there are still records worth discovering in the long tail of music.

Diggin’ through the crates

Just listen to Alexis Charpentier and his talk Music Archeology: Reviving the World’s Forgotten Records at TEDxMontreal, on uncovering the work of Henri-Pierre Noël

So, how do you discover new or old music recommendations?

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