I was thinking the other day about how we discover new music.
Terrestrial radio has always had an agenda. They sell advertisements, broadcast commercials and tell us as fans what they want us to hear. No doubt they get it right some of the time, but think about top forty radio for a second. Are we really discovering new music or are we simply being programmed and conditioned to like what we are told to like?
In truth, mainstream radio is an endless stream of corporate advertising, music included. If the album is the product, then the song is the four minute advertisement for that album. And I'll tell you (though I know you know this, but maybe you just haven't really thought about it all that much), those radio stations, or their parent broadcasting conglomerates, do not care if an album sells or doesn't sell.
They need to sell the products that they advertise. The song is the vehicle to get you to those products. Music on terrestrial radio sells new cars, sporting event tickets and cold and flu medicines at the local drug store. Selling albums is secondary, and if you thought differently, well, you thought wrong. Sorry.
It's funny how radio has conditioned and controlled us without us being any wiser. We hate the commercials, the thirty to sixty seconds of carnival barking that numbs our brains with endless advertising jingles like two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun or five eight eight two three hundred Empire!
Those commercials are decades old. I still remember the jingles, and you may too. You hear them enough, they stick in your head. Forever. Case in point? Chevrolet has unveiled their new advertising campaign for the 2012 baseball season, and it is a throwback to the 1970s, which was in fact at that time a throwback to the 1950s:
baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
Sadly, terrestrial airplay works the same way. If they play a song enough it will eventually stick with us, whether we like it or not. Sure it sells some albums, but it brings us back to our favorite FM radio stations where products are pushed on us with the aggressiveness of a cheating husband at an out of town singles bar armed with six or seven shots of whiskey.
McDonald's accounts for approximately 34% of the media advertising voice.
Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.
So there you have it. Popular music sells Big Macs and an occasional Filet-O-Fish. Mmmm boy.
My point? McDonald's really dictates what we listen to. You needn't argue that with me, it's true, and the numbers are there in black and white and in those cheesy thirty to sixty second commercials that undeniably prove my point.
Now think about the past year. Have you spent more money at McDonald's or your local record store? Enough said.
So how do we discover new music? Well what I'd like to do is share with you a few under the radar groups that I discovered in the oddest of ways.
I have to be honest, I haven't listened to mainstream music since 2005. That was the year my house burned down and with it about $60,000+ dollars in uninsured CDs, vinyls and even cassette tapes I had collected throughout my entire life.
That's just the cash value. There was an incalculable emotional tie to that music as well.
I couldn't afford to replace that music, so I aligned my musical tastes with the underground, independent, under the radar bands and musicians who had found ways to get me their music in the best way possible: free of purchase price and free of corporate advertising. Yes, *FREE* is part of the discovery process, whether it be an MP3 download or a YouTube Video, and that method of capturing a fan base has worked for centuries, in all walks of life.
Talk about a baptism by fire!
Tragedy has led me to some of the most amazing musical discoveries.
The first one is free. How many times have we heard that? Let me share with you three of my all-time favorite discoveries.
The Spinning Fools
I don't know much about this band. As far as I can tell, they've never asked much of anyone and they are the very definition of true underground. They give away their music for free, heck, you don't even have to subscribe to a newsletter or provide sacred, personal information just to get their music. You just go to their website and choose music from three distinct categories and listen to or download the songs you like:
- Signature Recordings: these are songs that we like... a lot. we think you'll like them too
- Demo Recordings: these are simple tracks that we wanted to commit to memory, before someone committed us
- Files To Pretty Much Ignore: these songs are like listening to a bad recording through a muddy pond
Similarly wonderful is The Lullaby, a more subdued song that kicks it up to near maelstrom during its final minute. Wheatley and Waist Deep are keepers as well.
Of all the music I have inadvertently discovered since 2005, The Spinning Fools are my favorites. Their folk and blues-infused brand of psychedelic rock is exactly the type of music I love and they do it most excellently. Here is a link to download their music, make sure you grab them and spread the word: The Spinning Fools - A Cheesy Website
Spencer Durham is a musical chameleon whose colors reflect the classic rock icons who have helped shape his music. This is a kid who released five albums before he reached the age of 21 and has an incredible knack for creating addictive hooks and blissful soundscapes.
The song that initially attracted me to Durham was Without A Doubt off of his 2007 release Much More Than Words. Without A Doubt is dynamic indie pop, a song that feels wonderfully familiar and excitingly new at the same time. Building a catchy, hooky pop song over a late 1990 - 2000s indie/pop arrangement, this song is as every bit as good as anything published by artists like Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz, Zac Brown or Ben Harper. I don't want to date or stereotype Durham, trust me, the song is immediate and fresh and wonderfully current.
The entire album is excellent, and other standout tracks include Scared Of The Door (Runaround), Floodwater and Super Like A Nova.
You can listen to a plethora of Spencer Durham's music that spans his entire career since 2007 and you can grab a free copy of the song Without A Doubt and a few others at his website: SpencerDurham.com
First of all, I cannot believe that this band is under the radar. I mean, what can we do to get this band the notoriety and popularity that they so deserve? Just think if you could have Janis Joplin fronting the Smashing Pumpkins. That's Anton Mink. And Anton Mink is just as amazing as that description would make you want them to be.
The song that initially attracted me to this band is Armies, from their self-titled 2009 debut album. It's as hypnotic as it is addictive and I believe I described the album in a review I wrote as A Flat-Out Put-Down Rave-Up! Yup - that's me quoting myself using my italicized voice.
Furthermore, I wrote the following:
If you are looking for a flat-out, put-down rave-up, then Anton Mink is a disc that is a must have for your CD collection. The instrumentation is super tight, the production is remarkable without the studio super-hype of over-driven and monotonously woven melodies so prevalent in music today, and the bad-ass vocals deliver angst, longing, despair, guilt, and a little raw hatred. Memorize the songs... they will quickly grow on you, and infect you, and take you over.
No italicized voice needed. That's a strong enough statement without the theatrics, don't you think?
Through two full-length CDs, there is not a single bad song on either disc. You can pick up the band's first CD at CD Baby and you can learn more about the band on their Facebook page:
Check out their video for the song Yabba --
then go get you some of their music, please and thank you: