How Do I Find New Music Now That I’m Old & Irrelevant?

Find New Music

One of my takeaways from Tom Vanderbilt’s You May Also Like was that for various reasons, everyone’s taste in music forms between ages ~16 and ~26.

The music you were listening to that time is “yours” – it’s what you like.

It’s why, as we all age, we become more and more “out of touch” with the youths of the current day while listening even more to the music of your time*

*It’s why every millennial in the US went *nuts* during Usher’s 2024 Halftime Show.

In the age of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music’s algorithms, we can all weirdly keep discovering “new” music…that’s usually just music from the age we grew up in. That’s one reason why old music is now more popular than new music (no paywall) for the first time ever.

But I think that’s too bad and not really great! I think music goes beyond personal preference and helps us all process what all is happening in the world *right now*. Sure, some things are timeless. But sometimes, you want a song about a specific moment in time.

So I was very excited to find the Search Engine episode about this exact topic. It’s absolutely worth a listen.

Search Engine Podcast covers How To Find New Music When Your Are Old & Irrelevant


For my own notes, I used OpenAI to create the transcript and asked ChatGPT to provide a summary.

  1. Emotional Connection to Music: PJ Vogt (the host) starts by reflecting on the deep, often inexplicable emotional connections people form with music, including the way certain songs or genres can encapsulate feelings of nostalgia, sadness, or joy.
  2. Challenges of Discovering New Music: Vogt discusses his personal struggle with finding new music as he grows older, falling back on the comfort of music from his youth and seeking ways to break out of this cycle.
  3. Role of Music Critics: Kelefa Sanneh, with his background as a professional music finder and critic, shares his approach to discovering new music, highlighting the changing landscape of music criticism, from gatekeepers of taste to promoters of inclusivity and exploration.
  4. Impact of Technology and Platforms on Music Discovery: The conversation touches on how platforms like Spotify, TikTok, and other digital media have transformed the way listeners discover new music, emphasizing the role of algorithms and social media in shaping musical tastes.
  5. Generational Differences in Music Consumption: Sanneh and Vogt explore how music discovery and appreciation evolve over time, noting that people tend to explore new music until their early 30s, after which they often return to the music of their youth.
  6. The Subjectivity of Musical Taste: They discuss the subjective nature of music appreciation, including how critics and listeners form opinions about what is “good” or “bad” music, and the role of nostalgia and personal experience in these judgments.
  7. Finding Music That Resonates: The episode provides practical advice for listeners seeking to discover new music, suggesting strategies such as exploring top charts, following critics’ recommendations, and being open to genres or artists outside one’s usual preferences.
  8. Reflection on Personal and Cultural Identity Through Music: Vogt and Sanneh reflect on how music can serve as a medium for exploring personal and cultural identity, and how being open to new musical experiences can lead to self-discovery and a deeper understanding of the diverse musical landscape.
  9. Advice for Overcoming Musical Stagnation: The conversation concludes with tips for listeners who feel stuck in their musical tastes, encouraging them to seek out new music actively, engage with different music communities, and embrace the evolving nature of music consumption and appreciation.

Tips To Find New Music

For my own notes, I used OpenAI to create the transcript and asked ChatGPT to provide key takeaways.

First, the guest, Kelefa Sanneh, notes that you will never win the status game around “cool”. There is no such thing as the “best” or “correct” music. So when you are looking for new music, the goal is to find music that speaks to, and expands your life…that might not be in a category where you’d expect.

  1. Leverage Digital Platforms and Algorithms: Use streaming services like Spotify and TikTok to explore new music. Their algorithms can suggest artists and tracks based on your listening habits, helping you discover music you might enjoy. If you can find just one track that is different, algorithms can often build around that.
  2. Explore Top Charts and Year-End Lists: Check out the Billboard Hot 200, Spotify’s year-end lists, or other platform-specific charts to see what’s currently popular or has been critically acclaimed throughout the year. Again, if you can find one song, you can usually use the “you might also like…” to find more.
  3. Attend Live Shows and Concerts: Experiencing live music can introduce you to new artists and genres in a vibrant, engaging setting, often outside your usual music preferences. The novelty and energy of in person music does two things. First, it keeps your brain distracted so you can listen to the whole song. Second, it associates the music with a happy, in person experience.
  4. Engage with Music Communities: Online forums, social media groups, and music blogs can offer recommendations and insights into new music trends and underrated artists. Actual people will be the only way to associate “vibes”. So if you love political anti-war music from the mid-2000s, another person is going to be the one to connect you with political anti-war music…from other eras in different genres. Look for people’s custom topic based playlists.
  5. Follow Music Critics and Journalists: Writers and critics, especially those with tastes you trust or find intriguing, can be valuable sources for discovering new music. There are not many anymore, but human curated music criticism is still out there.
  6. Utilize Music Discovery Apps and Tools: Apps like Shazam or features within streaming services that curate playlists based on mood, activity, or new releases can help you find fresh music effortlessly. The same goes for when you are out and about, watching ads, playing video games, etc.
  7. Embrace Genre Exploration: Don’t limit yourself to genres you’re already familiar with. Exploring different genres can lead to unexpected new favorites. You don’t have to spend money to take a chance. Click over to new genres in Spotify, etc and try stuff. Give it 30 minutes to just sample.
  8. Recall Influences of Favorite Artists: Investigate the influences behind your favorite artists to discover classic and contemporary acts that might resonate with you. Again, you only need one song for algorithms to build on.
  9. Ask Friends for Recommendations: Sharing music with friends or asking them for playlists can introduce you to music you wouldn’t find on your own. Again, humans know humans. I’m not a fan of country music in general, but I know what country artists to recommend to people who don’t like country (e.g. Zach Bryan). I don’t listen to a ton of rap, but I know to recommend Kendrick Lamar or Migos to other white-guys-who-listen-to-rock.
  10. Be Open to Music from Different Eras and Cultures: Expanding your musical horizons to include older music or music from different cultural backgrounds can enrich your listening experience. There are more people from more places making more music at higher-fidelity than ever before. It’s a numbers game that you (wherever you’re from) will resonate with *someone* living elsewhere in the world.
  11. Attend Music Festivals: Festivals offer a diverse lineup of artists and can be a great way to discover your next favorite band in a live setting. This is honestly the best option.
  12. Experiment with Curated Playlists: Many streaming services offer curated playlists based on genre, mood, or even time of day, which can be a simple way to encounter new music. When you hear something you like, like it so the algorithm knows what to build off!

That’s all!

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