Many people are always on the lookout for obscure artists with a great sound. Whether you’re a record label owner, a musician, or simply a music-lover, there are plenty of reasons why you may be interested in finding such “hidden gems”.
Perhaps you’re simply looking to expand your music taste. In other cases, you may be looking for artists that demonstrate a sound that is similar to other artists you enjoy. If you’re a record label owner, you might seek out obscure music with the goal of signing new artists to your label.
If you fall into any of these categories, you’re probably wondering how to find such artists. The truth is that there is no “best” way to find obscure artists. Instead, you should follow multiple approaches.
This guide will cover some effective methods scoping out hidden gems in the music world.
Record stores were the go-to place to find new music before the internet era. These shops were filled with music enthusiasts and staff who were always up-to-speed with the latest releases from artists in different genres.
If you wanted music recommendations or needed help with finding musicians who performed a specific style of music, you would generally turn to these record shop employees for help. Record stores might not be as popular as they once were, but there should still be a handful around, depending on where you live.
Many unsigned or underground artists still distribute their albums at record stores, so you may be able to find some interesting-sounding music from artists you have never heard of before. For this reason, you should consider frequenting these record stores, befriending their employees, and helping them get to know your music tastes. You never know when they may recommend an artist that could end up becoming your next favorite.
While many people listen to music casually, others enjoy music as a serious artform. The latter often view all the music they listen to critically and keep an ear out for artists with great songwriting skills and/or technical ability. Such artists might not top the album sales charts, but they may receive plenty of critical acclaim.
If you’re interested in finding such artists, you should consider reading music reviews. There are plenty of music publications dedicated to reviewing new music releases, many of which may be from obscure artists with small followings.
This includes music publications such as Rolling Stone, NME, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Complex. You can also find plenty of Youtube channels centered around reviewing music. Reading or watching such reviews is a great way to see which artists are making waves in the underground music world due to their talent.
Many artists strive to perform live whenever they can. Many of them do this because they love the thrill of performing in front of an audience. Others are interested in getting their name out and making few fans.
Such artists may perform at a wide variety of places ranging from street corners and bars, to full-sized concert halls. It’s worth noting that obscure artists rarely get the chance to perform at big concert venues. However, there may be exceptions if they have been chosen to open for a bigger artist.
This means there’s a good chance you will get to see an unsigned or obscure artist perform ahead of a headlining act such as The Arctic Monkeys or Ed Sheeran. Many of these opening hands are handpicked by the main act, so they are usually talented and offer a great performance.
If you are a record label owner, attending such live performances is a great way to scope out new talent. You can also observe the crowd’s response to these artists to gauge if they possess the potential to become more popular in the future.
Most musicians have social media accounts in the digital age. These artists often post updates on these accounts and promote upcoming music and tours. While many of these artists primarily focus on promoting their own music, they may occasionally give a shoutout to other artists in their scene.
This includes artists they are touring with or have collaborated with. This means you can discover some great artists simply by following artists you already like. There’s a good chance that these smaller artists already have social media accounts on the same sites, so you should visit their pages to learn more about them and check out their discographies.
Youtube is definitely one of the best places to find obscure artists. The platform hosts music videos and song videos from thousands of artists across dozens of genres. You can filter through various genres and discover which artists are trending. However, Youtube’s algorithm is also incredibly efficient at helping you discover lesser known artists.
For example, if you were to click a music video from one of your favorite artists. You should be able to find music from lesser-known artists who sound similar or share fans with the current artist.
Another great way to find obscure artists on Youtube is to browse playlists. You can type in a genre name to find playlists containing music of a certain style. In other cases, you can try looking up an artist you like and seeing which playlists contain their music. Such playlists are usually fanmade and contain music that you are likely to enjoy based on your enjoyment of the current artist.
Many people use this approach to discover lesser known artists that have solid releases but never managed to produce catchy or radio-friendly hits.
Soundcloud is one of the best sites where you can discover indie artists. The platform allows users to upload music for free, so many unsigned artists upload songs and demos to the website.
You can use Soundcloud’s search bar to look up artists, songs, albums, and playlists. These playlists are especially great for discovering new music because they contain music from several artists. This means you can get acquainted with over a dozen artists simply by listening to a single playlist.
Another useful music discovery strategy is to follow users who enjoy the same type of music you do. You can then visit their profile and see which playlists they have recently created or which songs from other artists they have reposted.
While Youtube and Soundcloud remain some of the most popular places to find new music, nothing beats dedicated music streaming platforms such as Spotify, TIDAL, and Apple Music.
Many artists have an incentive to upload their music to these platforms because they get paid whenever people stream their music. This means just about every artist who hopes to make money from digital sales uploads their music to these platforms. This includes obscure and unsigned artists who don’t have the funds to release their music on physical formats such as CDs and vinyl discs.
Discovering music on these platforms is especially easy because they have special algorithms designed to analyze the style of music you have been listening to and recommend other artists based on. Spotify’s algorithm is especially great at this. This algorithm identifies what connections between the listening behaviors of hundreds of users and tailors recommendations accordingly.
If you don’t want to leave yourself at the mercy of an algorithm, you could always just look up playlists containing songs you like and discover the other music on there. This approach has been popular for a few years, and many people use these music streaming platforms as their primary way to discover music.
Bandcamp is a unique website that hosts music from tens of thousands of artists. The platform was launched back in 2007 with the goal of providing indie musicians with a place they could upload and get digital copies of their music.
Bandcamp initially stood out because it gave artists the unique option of allowing listeners to pay whatever they wanted for a single or an album. So listeners could choose to download music for free or pay for it if they wanted to support the artist.
This gave the platform a community-like feel, which attracted plenty of new artists. Big names such as Toro Y Moi, Car Seat Headrest, JPEGMafia, and Big Thief all got their start on the platform, and it has remained popular to this day.
One of the most unique things about Bandcamp is that people who have supported the artist are allowed to leave reviews on their album pages. This allows you to learn what the artist’s music means to people. You can also click on reviewers’ profiles to see what other artists they are into and discover other music you may like.
Discogs is a special place for finding obscure music because it is actually a marketplace for physical releases. You can find a detailed catalog of every vinyl, cassette, or CD an artist has ever released on this website. If someone puts one of these releases up for sale, you will be able to see and purchase it on the Discogs Marketplace.
Discogs’ music discovery strength lies in its search function. You can look up music based on the artist, song, or album name. However, it also allows you to look up record labels and the different artists signed to them. This is a powerful tool that allows you to find more music from the record label that your favorite artists are signed to.
Many people use this approach to find obscure artists that perform the style of music they usually enjoy.
Music apps have revolutionized the way we discover and experience music. One of the latest ones to hit the scene is MuzicSwipe. This special app was designed to empower indie musicians with limited reach and help them promote their music to a wider audience.
MuzicSwipe is incredibly easy to use. You simply need to download the app onto your smartphone and open it. You will then be presented with a series of 15-second long music clips. If you’re not interested in a clip, you can swipe left to move onto the next one.
If you do like a particular music clip, you can swipe right on it. Once you have swiped right on the music from a single artist three times, you will “match” with them. You can then connect with the artist to learn more about them and their discography.
This app is great because it allows you to rely on your ears and find music based on exactly what you enjoy. This beats having to sift through record labels or albums, hoping to find the particular sound you are seeking.
Finding new music that appeals to you isn’t always easy. After all, the amount of music being released in the digital era is continually increasing at a rapid pace. The strategies mentioned above should help you navigate this sea of music and zoom in on the artists who appeal to you the most.
So consider trying these methods and updating your music collection with music from some of the most underrated new artists out there.
Eric Dalius is The Executive Chairman of MuzicSwipe, a music and content discovery platform designed to maximize artist discovery and optimize fan relationships. When he’s not working for MuzicSwipe, he perhaps hosting the weekly podcast “FULLSPEED,” engaging with inspiring entrepreneurs from various sectors. Additionally, through the “Eric Dalius Foundation,” he has established four scholarships for US students. Stay in touch with Eric on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Entrepreneur.com.