Label centric music discovery

Music is big business. In fact it’s a business that entertained $15bn (USD) from global record sales alone. 45% of this $15bn was generated through digital sales channels. So it would be easy to make the assumption that digital sales are on the up because digital consumption of music is so much easier and cheaper for the consumer.

But as it is always the case with statistics, numbers doesn’t always paint the full picture. Sure it’s easier now than 15 - 20 years ago to go and buy a number off the top 10; but if you venture 1 degree from the mainstream taste, you’ll find yourself spending hours clicking through music (as opposed to digging in the past - I’ll come to that too) trying to find the perfect tuna.

Let me describe the struggle in detail: You hear this incredible piece of music somewhere and you get instantly hooked. You’ve never heard this stuff before (and you blame yourself for it) and you are sure hearing this sound has changed your life. Now you HAVE to spend your next two weeks listening to some more of the same. In the most ideal situation, you heard this music while you were sitting in your friend’s sofa and you interrogate him until he gives up all his knowledge of that piece. And in less than ideal situations, you hear it while you’re out and about - in a pub or a festival. If you are really lucky, one of your friends (or Shazam) would have successfully id’ed the track. Great - but you want more of the same. Which finally brings us to the topic of this article.

More of the same please!

You managed to find out the name of the artist and the name of the song. This is the beginning of your hunt. You do your basic searches on Google, or apps like Shazam will even attempt to recommend similar. This might yield some decent results depending on the popularity of the type of music that you are hunting. Underground music tends to get the least amount of exposure (for obvious reasons). Things like Spotify can be very useful in your road to new music discovery because it allows you to listen to a incredibly large collection of recorded music. But it falls short on the discovery bit.

When you know the artist and the song, you can try and listen to more from the same artist or find other artists that they collaborated with or even try “similar artists” recommended by Spotify in your quest to find more of that flavour. Sometimes this doesn’t work because the the song that you heard from that artist may have been a special release and the rest of their releases are a completely different genre altogether (yes, this happens - quite a lot in niche genres).

Algorithmic music discovery doesn’t quite work for creative content because art is often varied and doesn’t always follow a consistent and a predictable pattern.

The thing is, the music industry had been around for a long time and this problem had already been solved. Algorithmic music discovery doesn’t quite work for creative content because art is often varied and doesn’t always follow a consistent and a predictable pattern. So human curation is such a big part of music discovery process. But it’s a lot of work to manually curate and categorise all this amount of digital content that you would think this is not an economically viable option. But in fact, this is exactly how underground music is pushed.

Piggy back on the work of the labels

Record labels often times act like human curators. They work with artists during the recording and release process and the label themselves decide to release music through their brand that they can identify with. So check out what label released that song that you really liked. If it’s not one the major labels, then there’s a good chance that you will like most of the content released by that label. Hunting this way will introduce you to new artists that you would otherwise wouldn’t know to look up.

While you are doing this, you can use Spotify’s Advanced Search functionality to filter by labels. Just typing in the label name in search wouldn’t get you any results on Spotify. In fact, labels aren’t even top level entities like Artist, Albums and Songs. I think this is a mistake from Spotify. So you have to use Advanced Search.

So to filter by label, type in label:"Name of the Label" in to Spotify’s search bar. The example below shows how to find all releases made by the record label 1080p:


Go out and try it and zero in on the music you reeeeaaaalllly want.