Never before has it been so easy to discover new tunes, or artists like ones you already have a fondness for. If you don't know where to start, you've obviously never Googled "find new music", "discover music", or "good music" (not G.O.O.D.) and you've obviously never listened to college format radio or online radio stations. I've decided to highlight three places you can discover new tunes regularly without much effort. These entries have a Chicago/Colorado skew since I'm from those places, but the music you'll find is diverse as can be.
The Steam Engine
I'm a big fan of The Steam Engine and the main guy behind it. Jason is one of the nicest individuals you'll meet and truly a big supporter of music, as evidenced by this disclaimer on the about page:
"Regarding posts: Ask me to take them down and they are history. I fully support all of these bands and only put these items up in hopes of promoting them and ultimately getting people to buy their records and attend their shows."
When I worked with local Chicago artists Model Stranger & John Farrell, The Steam Engine was among their biggest advocates and drove a ton of traffic to their various sites. The site is also one of the major resources for My Morning Jacket fans, and has been a primary source of news & bootleg or live recordings of the band for years.
That last part is the reason you should check this site out. While I know a lot of people who prefer not to listen to live recordings, I'm quite the opposite. I listen to a bunch of artists who actually step their game up live - artists like MUTEMATH, The Black Keys, & Jack White's various projects. I've downloaded so many phenomenal live recordings from the Steam Engine & the quality is never lacking. I'm always amazing at where Jay finds this stuff.
Check out The Treasury to see an incredible list of downloads The Steam Engine has available. Believe me, you'll become a regular on the site like I have.
"The Chicago Mixtape was developed to connect local music fans directly to progressive Chicago artists."
Each week, subscribers (it's free!) receive a download link to high quality .mp3s of local artists. What makes Chicago Mixtape unique is that all of the tracks on a particular week's compilation come from artists who have a show that week. Intro and outro track by Casey (and sometimes guests from the local music community) detail what's on that week's mixtape and where to find them. It's a brilliant method to help drive extra foot traffic to local shows. "Here's some great free music we've worked hard to curate. Now go out in the community and support it!"
I'm particularly a fan because that's what I do. Most of my disposable income goes toward wine (or craft brews), live music & concert posters. Often that income is disposed of in the same night/vicinity. I attended the Chicago Mixtape launch party just over two years ago and instantly became a fan of two of the bands on the bill and frequented their shows around the city thereafter. Prior to this project's launch I would have considered myself pretty knowledgable about Chicago's local scene as I got around a lot. Yet, week after week I was astounded by how many bands/artists on the compilations I hadn't heard of and how good they were.
You don't have to be a Chicagoan to appreciate this project. Casey and his team work very hard to curate the mixes each week, and despite the fact they source most of the tunes via submissions, they somehow find a way to dig through and put together a well-flowing album every Monday or Tuesday. Sign up now!
I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has been one of my favorite music blogs since 2005 when it was founded. Its curator Heather Browne has sincere passion for the music she posts about and a since desire to support the artists, she posts in the "about these songs" section:
"Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends."
I'm not the only one that supports Fuel/Friends, however. Nearly every major "cool" or "hip" music blog you'll find out there (including The Steam Engine mentioned above) links to Heather's page. Major artists visit her for the "Fuel/Friends Chapel Sessions" (recorded in an empty sanctuary), and the "Fuel/Friends House Shows" which are exactly what they sound like. I haven't been to one, but frequently heard of their legendary status when I was working at Radio 1190 in Boulder.
I'm hoping to head down in a few weeks to catch the wonderful Nathaniel Rateliff. I'll leave you will a video, recently posted on the blog that includes a "who's who" of folk-cool. The Head & The Heart teaming up with The Lumineers at Fuel/Friends House Party to cover Bon Iver (somewhere a hipster's head just exploded). Enjoy.