Music Discovery Throughout the Ages

Platform & Stream
Aug 25 · 5 min read

Do you take your music discovery seriously?

If you’re the type of person that gets tired of your same old playlists and is always on the hunt for new music; you’re in the right place.

If you’ve ever been on Twitter, you’ve probably seen someone either praise their Spotify Release Radar, or complain that the playlist built off of their own music tastes isn’t hitting right this week. How did we get here? Music discovery has changed immensely through the ages and, for better or worse, we’re now more reliant than ever on algorithms to pick out that next track for us to discover.

Does that feel right? What are all the ways that you discover music?

Today we have music-driven social media platforms such as TikTok, amazing streaming services such as Spotify, unique music discovery curators such as the Album Daily newsletter, and a plethora of other options to discover music. Many of these modern discovery options implement the key aspects of music beautifully.

Music is tribal, event-driven, visual, and constantly changing. Let’s take a stroll through history and figure out how we got to where we are.

How music discovery started: Tribal

Every single known culture in the world partakes in music. Everyone.

That’s no coincidence. The oldest instrument ever discovered dates back to as 43,000+BP and back then… there weren’t any viral dances to the latest bone flute hit.

You discovered music solely from the folks around you and began to define who you were as a tribe.

Ancient Greece: Events

Fast forward to Ancient Greece where the students were taught music at an early age. Music was an essential pillar of Ancient Greek life and you’d hear it all the time. You could discovery the latest lyre (aka kind-of like a harp), aulos (aka recorder), and syrinx (aka panpipe) music at celebrations, groups marching through the streets as a komos (band of revellers), religious events, women playing stringed instruments and reciting poems in their homes, Athens schools, and competitions. Music became commonplace amongst just about every public event during this time period and the social aspect of music was flourishing.

The Album Era: Visual

Albums were originally created in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until The Beatles in the 1960’s that they really started to catch on in the “LP” (long play) format that we know today. By this point concerts were getting bigger and bigger, flipping through records at the store was a pastime, artists started creating full albums of cohesive music instead of just singles, and you discovered music by picking up a record at the store that caught your eye, catching an opener at your favorite band’s concert, falling in love with one song and listening to the entire album front-to-back, and especially listening to the radio.

With the introduction of albums, music became even more visual throughout this period. Creative album art goes a long way.

Modern Times: Constant Change

Nowadays many of us can hardly go a couple of days without listening to something new. With every single song we could ever want at our fingertips; we don’t have to just choose the album with the boldest cover art. We don’t have to listen to just what our friends listen to. We don’t even need to physically be at the events anymore.

The way we discover music is changing every single day and no matter how you choose to discover, there’s a solution for that.

With that many options, it’s key to think about what you value in music discovery before you choose the solution that works for you.

Modern Music Discovery Options

** If you like getting recommendations based on what you already listen to — you should seek out solutions with algorithms that can analyze your listening history and recommend more of the same (think Spotify’s Release Radar, TikTok, Bandcamp, Last.fm)

Pro: High percentage chance you’ll like the music

Con: Low variety. You can get stuck in a music rut and continue hearing the same sounds.

** If you like a particular artist, search for other similar artists online or with your favorite streaming app. Many artists will create playlists as well so you can discover their influences and other favorite music.

Pro: Many artists curate playlists these days — you’ll have tons to listen to.

Con: Those playlists aren’t always updated as frequently as you’d like to discover new music. You may find yourself spending a lot of time finding good ones.

** If you like stumbling across random music while you’re out and about, have Shazam ready to go to make sure you capture that song for later.

Pro: Shazam is super easy to use and highly effective. Can lead to a good variety if you put yourself in various environments.

Con: Unpredictable and not reliable.

** If you like to listen to the same stuff as your friends, make sure to keep that group chat alive as you find

Pro: High percentage chance you’ll like the music.

Con: Low variety.

OUR FAVORITE.

Leverage other peoples’ music discovery hard work and subscribe to services such as the completely free Album Daily newsletter. They help you discover music that you wouldn’t normally hear and send 5 different genres of music recommendations every week right to your inbox.

Just click on your favorite streaming platform and add the top songs to your playlists.

Pro: Large variety of unique music. Completely free. Very frequent (every weekday).

Con: Cannot stream directly from this service.

By Matt Markiewicz / Album Daily

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