A Music Journalist’s Tips to Falling Down the Online Rabbit Hole of Underground Music

You might already be a pro at cruising through the wonderland of online music. Maybe you’re well versed in the far corners of Soundcloud, Spotify, and Bandcamp. But there’s always room to get better. And while you’re stuck at home, discovering new music is a great way to pass the time.

Music discovery works best with a team. That doesn’t mean you should hire someone to scour endless music forums for you. But you should be sharing what you find with friends and vice versa. And though my experience is mostly with punk, rock, garage, old school country, and indie music, you can apply these steps to basically any genre.

So follow me down the rabbit hole of online music discovery.

YouTube should be your first stop. It’s super easy to spend hours going from video to video, and many times you’ll be able to find music by artists you love that can’t be found on any streaming platforms. A couple of my favorite YouTube discoveries are Elvis Presley and Annita Wood’s home recordings and “Strange Love” from the motion picture Frankenweenie by Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Neither of these can be found on Spotify.

Elvis Presley & Anita Wood, Home Recordings 1958

Karen O, “Strange Love”

YouTube is also great because it suggests videos similar to the ones you’ve been watching. If you’ve been watching old school country stars on the Porter Wagoner Show (the show where Dolly Parton got her start), YouTube might suggest you check out old shows from the Grand Ole Opry, and so on.

Grand Ole Opry Stars of the ‘50s

After you’ve spent hours on YouTube, I suggest checking Reddit music forums next. Don’t turn away from forums just because there aren’t many members. It doesn’t matter if there are thousands or only 40—Reddit communities are tight and specific to your needs. For example, the subreddit r/PlaylistsSpotify only has 1,500 members but is an amazing forum for discovering entire playlists that cater to your exact mood. By contrast, r/OldSchoolCoolMusic boasts more than 20,000 members, but is another great place to discover artists you may have never heard of before, like pioneer blues artists Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters.

Howlin’ Wolf from OldSchoolCoolMusic

Muddy Waters from OldSchoolCoolMusic

Reddit is also a great place to interact with other music discovery lovers. You can comment along with other Redditors to delve deeper into your favorite genres and discover more artists.

While you’re clicking through the music world of Reddit, someone might suggest a podcast to check out. Podcasts are yet another great way to discover music. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I host two podcasts promoting current underground artists that go up every week—The Music Meetup (interviews) and New Vibrations (playlist). And BTRtoday has an amazing network of music podcasts that are perfect for music discovery.

Shameless self-promoting aside, there are countless amazing podcasts out there in the world that also provide listeners with great music discovery. No Dogs in Space provides complete history on pioneering punks like The Stooges or The Damned, and Street Wannabes features countless interviews and chats with local underground NYC musicians.

Actual radio is a great source too. If you don’t have a real radio, don’t fret—most stations can also be streamed online via platforms like TuneIn Radio. Yes, it’s hard to shuffle through all the annoying pop music stations blasting fog horn samples and playing Taylor Swift on repeat, but once you find a good station, you’re set. Many stations have physical copies of songs that aren’t available anywhere online. One of my favorite shows is The Tennessee Border show on NYC’s WKCR (88.9FM) every Sunday at 12 p.m.-2 p.m. EST. This show has filled my Sunday mornings (yes, I don’t wake up until Noon or later on Sundays) with priceless old school country twang.

Another easy way to find new artists is through your favorite band’s Instagram. Just go to their account and see which bands they’re following. Or post to your own story for recommendations and tag bands you already like to give viewers some guidelines.

Finally, if you have the time and the ability to go to a record store, I highly recommended taking a chance on the $1 bins. Even if you have no idea what you’re purchasing, you might just end up finding your next favorite album.

The wonderland of online music discovery is vast and can be confusing. But follow these tips and you’ll find your way. Good luck searching out there.