Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The magic of discovery

I grew up listening to the radio. WABX in Detroit to be precise, a station that broke new ground when music was breaking new ground in the late '60s and early '70s.

An underground station run by music fanatics, WABX introduced me to the music of artists like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Doors and other bands that had no place on top 40 radio. As a kid who's musical exposure was pretty much limited to the Beatles and other mainstream artists, this was a revelation.

So here's my question. In the era of iTunes and Spotify, how do I happen upon new music? Sure, iTunes 'recommends' artists to me using algorithms to generate suggestions based on what I've already bought. And there are 15 million tracks on Spotify that I can stream to my computer or smartphone. Both are great services that I use. But they're both missing something for me.

The magic of discovery.

That moment when you're listening to the radio and something so new, so powerful comes through the speakers that time stands still. I can still remember where I was when I first heard the Hendrix version of Watchtower. Just thinking about the power harp on J. Geils Band bluesy Whammer Jammer sends chills down my spine.

When I discovered these tunes, they became mine, something I could share with others. They became a part of who I was and helped make me who I am. And even though my discovery came through the radio thanks to a forward thinking program director, it was still my discovery. It wasn't recommended to me by a friend. It wasn't spoon fed to me through a promotional campaign. And that's why these songs and so many others stick with me through all the years.

There's great power in discovery. Whether it's a song, a restaurant, a secluded vacation spot, or a product. That's why, while I'm using iTunes and Spotify, I still listen to both internet and terrestrial radio stations that do their own programming. Hoping to find that next great discovery.


  1. The homogenization of music is painful. Here in Minneapolis we have a unique ray of sunshine with 89.3 The Current. As a part of Minn Public Radio - it has its public radio shortcomings but is a good source of new music...some of which is really not "commercial".

    You can listen via their streaming site on the internets.

  2. The Current is on my radio playlist along with KCRW, Radio Paradise and a few others. Another good station is 88.9 Radio Milwaukee. They actually play and support the local music scene... Lots of good stuff to discover there.