Your Guide to the Music Blogosphere

The world of independent music changes so rapidly these days that it can become an overwhelming task keeping up with the latest and greatest.  Whether you're new to indie music or a seasoned veteran with a deep personal canon, my hope is that this list will provide you at least one new way to discover music you haven't heard.

I organized the guide into three tiers according to how obscure/accessible the sources are.  Keep in mind, this is in no way supposed to be an exhaustive guide.  Just a list of really, really great sources for discovering independent music.

Entry Level:

Pitchfork Logo

Pitchfork is the granddaddy of indie music sites.  Rolling Stone for the alt crowd.  Massively polarizing but wildly influential.  Perhaps their most important contribution to the music world is the BNM tag, which stands for Best New Music.  These three letters can quite honestly turn a bedroom recording project into a buzzband overnight.

My advice: Pitchfork is undeniably past their journalistic prime, but they're still at the height of their influence. If you're new to indie, use Pitchfork as a jumping off point for getting in the know.  After that, check back from time to time, but never hang on their every word.  There's far more to music than the 4k.

Best of the Rest:

These are well known music publications that will bring you up to speed if you're new to indie, but probably won't tell you much you didn't know if you've already been listening for awhile.  Really good sites for tour news, press releases, and discovering some of the bigger names in independent music:

  1. Stereogum - Love their Artist to Watch feature articles.
  2. TinyMixtapes - Reviews and News
  3. NPR Music - Lots of artists go to NPR for First Listen album streams. 
  4. Hypemachine:

HypemachineCredit: Hypemachine

Hypemachine is a different animal than the ones I included above.  Rather than being an actual independent publication that generates original content and news, it essentially acts as the Technorati of the music blogosphere.  It's music aggregator, providing a measure of which artists and songs are the most blogged about. 

According to Hypemachine, Yeasayer was 2010's most blogged artist.

Deeper Cuts:

So you've explored the moguls of indie.  You're ready to dig a little deeper.  This is where you start to really get into the blogosphere.  We're still looking mostly at multiple-author publications with subscription bases into the 10s of thousands, but nowhere near Pitchfork or Stereogum level.  These are the places where hype is born.  I'll leave it to you to explore them on their own, but I will say this--my favorite on the list is I Guess I'm Floating. 

I Guess I'm Floating

Here's the list:

  1. I Guess I’m Floating - Floats above the rest.
  2. Gorilla Vs. Bear - Same owners as Stereogum.
  3. Indie Music Filter - Toronto based, little bit of everything.
  4. Yours Truly - Love the new site design. Nice session videos.
  5. Altered Zones- Lo-Fi goodness.
  6. La Blogotheque - Take Away Shows are the best thing ever.  French site, so check out their YouTube channel if you only speak English. Best street performances you'll ever see.


Head Underwater

For this section I'm going to focus on an oft overlooked resource for music discovery--Tumblr. 

If you haven't heard, Tumblr is a rapidly growing microblogging platform that makes generating and sharing content as easy as it's ever been in history.  What many people don't know is that Tumblr has an incredibly vibrant music community, it's greatest strength being its inherent interconnectivity.

Tumblr was built on two ideas:

  1. That content was made to be shared
  2. And that blogs were meant to be followed.

Within the Tumblr "dashboard," you're never more than two clicks from either sharing content you saw and enjoyed or subscribing to that author's feed.  All content from the blogs you subscribe to is constantly fed through your dashboard in an infinitely scrolling reading environment.  All it takes is strategic subscriptions to six or seven choice music blogs, and you'll never miss a new artist again.

Here are some of Tumblr's best and brightest:

Tiny bastions of independent music discovery.  Here we're getting into blogs with one or two authors.  Most of them are unmonetized and many exist solely to promote and expose new and unsigned indie acts.  Mixtapes are a big thing on the Tumblr scene, and there's a lot of love for chillwave, lo-fi, folk, and electronic music.

Register at Tumblr, then follow these blogs:

  1. Head Underwater - Jimmy's mixes are the best.
  2. Playcount - Nice mix of music and art, old and new.
  3. YVYNYL - Pronounced y-vinyl.
  4. It's Just Indie - Very minimal, in a good way.
  5. FreeIndie - Four free tracks with every post
  6. SmokeDontSmoke - So lo-fi it hurts.
  7. verb/re/verb - Coolest 16 year old on the internet
  8. Unholyrhythms - Writes the craziest captions with the music he posts.
  9. Nothing Sounds Better - Nice interviews and columns.

There you have it. 

My guide to the independent music blog scene.  Like I said, this isn't an exhaustive list by any means--these just happen to be the sources I check on a daily basis.  My last pieces of advice:

  • Last.FM: If you haven't already, register at Last.FM and start tracking your listening habits.  The more music you "scrobble" (listen to), the more Last.FM will know about you, and the more accurate the recommendations it can generate.  I consider Last.FM to be the Wikipedia of the music world, and it's usually the first place I check for more information on an artist I just discovered.
  • Myspace: Get re-aquaited with Myspace.  If a band doesn't have a Last.FM page, it's probably because they prefer Myspace. 
  • Bandcamp is by far the best source for legal, self-released music downloads.  Many smaller bands have gone to the "pay what you want" paradigm and offer EPs and even full albums free of charge.  Check it out.  That goes double so if you've got a band that needs exposure.
  • SoundCloud and Grooveshark. I consider these two, along with bandcamp to be "hosts" rather than honest to god discovery tools.  Here you'll find just about anything available for streaming, or even download, but you have to know what you're looking for.  If bloggers were chefs, Soundcloud and Bandcamp would be the pantry (also Youtube and Vimeo).

Thanks so much, and I hope you all found something you liked!