Sharing tunes with your buddies will forever be fun—but these days, it looks a little difference. Not only has the growth of online culture publications (like the very one you are reading) made finding your next favorite band much easier, we now have a host of other services and tools as a venue for aural exploration.
Yes, there are the giants that come to mind first: Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio. But we’ve gone through the best of iOS / Android apps to find you 10 fantastic new ways to discover the music you love.
1. Band of the Day
Like a word-a-day calendar, except with new artists! Band of the Day might be the most direct way of finding new bands to know and love—just pop open the app, check out the curators’ pick for today, and start grooving to a sample. They’ve even lined up biographic information and photos to pour over while you listen. There’s no choosing your preferred genre here because this one’s all about discovering music that may have otherwise passed you by. The good news is that if you missed one, days gone by are still available, replete with all the extra information your art-starved mind might crave.
Sometimes finding your next favorite band isn’t all about genres or “sounds like” recommendations. Sometimes you just need to find the right track for the occasion. Songza solves this problem by presenting you with curated playlists formulated to fit any sort of mood, situation, or desire. You can sort through them by weirdly specific activities like “singing in the shower” or “looking at pictures of your ex”—and in the process, you may just stumble upon the next big thing.
Discovering new bands before the age of the internet often came down to attending live shows and seeing opening acts. So if you’re craving the personality and unique sounds only live performances can deliver, look no further than Bandsintown for the hookups. This app will help you boot the footwork involved in tracking your favorite musicians’ tours and even find others you might like to see live. Bandsintown sorts through your existing music streaming accounts, preferences, and shared lists, alerting you any time you have the opportunity to check out the gig of someone you dig. Alternatively, you can glance at the entire list of folks playing in your area and pick one at random for a taste of some old school music discovery.
Sonarflow lets you paint a star map with your music library. Constellations are composed of, at the broadest level, genres or moods, each allowing further exploration with a pinch-zoom. Find individual tracks to play or, at any point, tap a circle to bring up some similar selections. Sonarflow acts as both an interesting new interface for browsing your existing music, as well as a simple suggestion engine that can point you to artists you’ve been missing out on. It’s interesting to see where your musical tastes congregate with dynamically sized category stars too.
A relative senior amongst the group, younger only than the likes of Pandora. Last.fm builds a profile of your musical tastes based on virtually and track to grace your audio jack. A process of “scrobbling” pulls data from other apps and players, assembling an amalgamation of the data from individual services for your listening pleasure. Carry on with your regular internet radio activities from there. Last.fm’s discovery utility will function much like the aforementioned giants: tracks the old and the new, all aimed at you—will be presented in a constant procession.
So you’ve successfully found your new favorite independent artist, but the lack of a label is making them difficult to support? Bandcamp is the iTunes of the little guy, the place where unsigned indies are served up alongside unusual albums you won’t find anywhere else like chiptune video game soundtracks. Tune in to both your collections, purchased straight from the artists, and the picks of the artists and fans you’re following.
7. Hype Machine
This one is paid and iOS only, but widely adored and absolutely worth noting. Hype Machine trawls hundreds of popular blogs to find out exactly what music people are talking about. Listen to what’s new, what’s hot, or what’s on your friends’ tongues. Most hype machines may be artificial in nature, but this one is driven entirely by the hearts and minds of the public.
Soundcloud is an oddity. It’s a place to listen to free music, yes, but also to upload your own audio. The kicker here is the interactivity between artist and user—each track allows comments to posted to specific timestamps. Users are free to share their thoughts on whatever verse, solo, or drop they come across. Think Youtube, except devoted entirely to sound and bearing a much more (to my observation) mature comment stream. It’s a great place to unearth the experimental, the amateur, the unfinished, or the otherwise unpublished. You might find treasures that simply don’t exist anywhere else.
9. TuneIn Radio
For those who’d like to scoff at newfangled internet radio services while still utilizing modern technology, there’s TuneIn. Live radio is still playing. All over the world, in fact. This app will let you browse and tap into a great many of them and tack their air dates to a calendar. FM/AM broadcasts are a tried and true method of music discovery dating back to the younger part of last century, so why not put it to use? Perhaps you can discover a new favorite newscaster as well.
Sometimes discovery finds you when you least suspect it. Fortunately, gone are the days when wonderfully unsolicited tracks left you longing for identification. Soundhound sniffs up information on whatever tunes are wafting about presents it to you with startling proficiency. View lyrics, play it again via a link to another app, and more. If it can recognize The Ants Go Marching by the sound of my dubious, wordless intonation, it must be impressive.