Brian Plumridge - Winner, 2013 Award for Excellence & the Best Achievement in Radio & Online Journalism, Liverpool Hope University.

Runner Up, BBC Postgraduate Student Journalism Innovation Award 2012

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Thursday, 23 January 2014

The never ending quest - searching for new music

I confess. I'm addicted. I know what I like and I know I want more. New music is my obsession. I'm always searching for that elusive album that's going to blow my mind.I want a new Dark Side of the Moon every day. A new Physical Graffiti. One coming along every 40 years is not acceptable. It must be out there, and out there now. I just haven't found it.

The Holy Grail

Finding new music has been made a lot easier than when I was a kid. No more waiting to see what Sounds recommended once a week. No more need to depend on enthusiastic friends guaranteeing satisfaction only to be dejected - and ten quid worse off.

The quest for the Holy Grail of new music does, however, require discipline. There is a structure. A process. It is, my friends, an investigation. And I have quite some history in that department (another story). If you want to find anything you need to have a method. Sites like Any Decent Music are brilliant, but if you want to dig deeper you have to be a bit more proactive. Today, right here, I'm going to share my method with you. If you're a serious music hunter, read on.

Step One - Get Spotify

Okay, so step one. Get Spotify. You can now listen to every song as often as you like with no limits. Yeah you get adverts if you don't pay for Premium, but you can't argue with free.

Right, you have Spotify? Then we'll begin. I'm taking it you know what music you actually like? If you only like one artist, that'll do.  

From Genesis to revelations.....
Stick the name of the artist you like into the search box. 

I've gone with Genesis. You don't like Genesis? There's no accounting for taste darling. Okay, okay...look at the Spotify screen shot on the right. Nice photo of Phil, Mike and Tony etc...But also on that shot there's a tab towards the bottom called 'Related Artists'.

That's a good first port of call to find other stuff you might like. Click on it.

Hidden musical gems

You should now be looking at a page listing the artists linked to the ones you like. And in my case, that means a list that includes Marillion

Genesis-alike rockers: Marillion
 From this page you're going to start expanding your horizons.

Yes, Spotify is good at making recommendations, but it has it's limitations.

Sometimes as you'll see in a minute, it's just not very you have to think outside the box. Think of new ways to make connections on your journey to those hidden musical gems.

Click on the band that you fancy searching. When I do that with Marillion it brings up the following window...

Marillion and Popular on the same page..well I never.
Right, now this is where Spotify can be great or misleading. If you check out 'Related Artists' from Marillion's Fish! Crazy. That's like saying Robert Plant isn't related to Led Zeppelin. Madness. Fish, for those who don't know was the lanky Scotsman who sang on Marillion's most commercial success stories - Kayleigh and Lavender to name but two.

The related feature is flawed

So, knowing that the related feature is a little flawed have a look in the Biography section (see the tab? Next to Related Artists). 

Prog revival short lived? Surely not....
Here you are on the biography page. And like any biography it sets out to tell you stuff about the history of the person, band, whatever. Using hyperlinks (those bold words linking you to another page) you'll see that although Fish isn't a related artist on Spotify he is indeed mentioned in the bio and linked. 

Exile on Main Street or Dirty Work?

So off you go to the link, clicking on Fish, and what do you get? a list of albums that are available. Unrated. No reviews. Now some artists have two dozen or more to choose from. How on earth are you meant to know which one's an Exile on Main Street, and which one is a Dirty Work?

from Vigil to Feast...the Fish years Wikipedia style
First things first I like to get an idea of the difference between what's on Spotify and what the artist has actually released. That's useful. Because the link to Fish on Spotify links you to the back catalogue of the Gabriel-esque giant and some be-stetson-ed country crooner with the same stage name. Not very helpful for a beginner looking for prog. A quick Google search for Fish and good old Wikipedia gives me a list of the albums he's released. So now I know what he's released....but that still leaves me with ten albums to choose from. Life is way too busy to listen to them all, yeah?

All in one place

Individual music websites are fine for getting reviews. But we live in the age of the conglomerator. No, that's not the new Emerson, Lake and Palmer album. It's that handy online place where you can get everything all in one space. Jobrapido do it for jobs. Best Ever Albums does it for music.

Finding best ever albums? It does exactly what it says on the tin
Best Ever Albums tells me that Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors is probably the place to start for an aspiring Fish fan...or a Fishhead as they are known on the singer's site. But..eyes right...what's that also on screen? A Feast of Consequences gets 4.5 stars out of 5? I'm interested in that too.

A quick look back on Spotify reveals that Vigil is indeed there for my listening pleasure...but A Feast of Consequences? Nowhere to be seen. Oh the humanity. 

Am I wasting my time?

What should I do? Right. I need to I wasting my time looking for it? Pop over to Amazon. People buy stuff, people write reviews, and occasionally worthwhile advice is imparted. But be have a tendency to love everything...especially fans who are prepared to write a review. I've seen glowing Amazon reviews for products that were still a fortnight away from release. I kid you not. 

Feast on Amazon....a masterpiece, no less
Feast of Consequences is, apparently, a, an absolute masterpiece. But proof is in the pudding. As I warned, our reviewer S J Pearce could be the most biased Fishhead in the universe, making his Amazon recommendation something to be taken with the tiniest smidgen of salt. 

But...Feast it's not on Spotify. Amazon? They have no copies in stock. But even if they did, who can afford to buy albums that they might not like these days? Not me, that's for sure. I like to listen before forking out. 

I need to go in search of another place to listen. A good source of albums is YouTube. Often uploaded in HD, the sound is good enough to listen in and do a pre purchase quality assessment of your own.

YouTube - an unlikely source of albums
Refine your search

On YouTube's search bar stick in the name of the album. But remember - as well as the name of the album add 'complete album' or 'full album' to your search. When your results come up go to the tab that says 'Filters' to the left above the video results. Click on that and refine your search by changing the length of videos to 'Long - 20 ~ minutes. That way you'll only see results longer than 20 minutes. Albums tend to be longer than 20 minutes, so that will make your life a lot easier. 

You have your search results. But alas, Fish's modern masterpiece is nowhere to be found. As rare as cod in the North Atlantic, this Fish has slipped the net. 

But I still want to listen before I buy, and I've just realised - by checking Wikipedia - that the only place selling this album is the website of the man himself

Get yourself back to Google. Now you don't want to download the album. Not only is that mostly illegal but it's the best way to get yourself a nasty hidden virus lurking amongst your eagerly anticipated Zip, FLAC, RAR or whatever other format you decided to download. My only advise for you is if you choose to do that is have very, very good anti virus software and keep it up to date. I use Kaspersky. Not free but free's me from worrying, that's for sure.

Ok, so you're on Google's homepage. Search for the artist, album name and add the word 'streaming' to your search. Look for safe results and, again, be careful about visiting any site you aren't sure about etc etc..

I've finally got Fish

Looking for Fish I got a streaming hit. The site ends's in Russia.....But you've got Kaspersky and it's up to date yeah?

So in I go...and there it is. After starting a Genesis search on Spotify, looking for similar, researching albums, and looking up best albums reviews I've finally got Fish's new and highly thought of album online for me to preview. Prior to this exercise, I didn't even know it existed. 

Fish in Russia...the Beluga caviar of my quest
All that effort. Was it worth the chase? The quest is a labour of love, and the outcome is, well, subjective. One man's meat is another man's poison. But whether you like my taste in music or not, has this given you an idea about how to make connections, and how you can stay up half the night exploring rock family trees? Will you find a new Dark Side, Sgt Peppers or Exile? I'm not sure anyone will ever find anything that good again. But it's fun to try. Or in my case, an obsession to pursue. Whatever you find, listen and then buy it if you like it.

Can you rip it? 

If it's not copyright protected there are two easy ways to copy audio from the web. If you own sound editing software like Audition you may have noticed that it won't record audio playing through your sound card. That's been intentionally done by manufaturers to stop piracy, but of course it prevents legal use of the function too. 

There is a work around. Your computer will still record from a plugged in microphone. So try this. Get a lead with a standard iPod type headphone socket on either end. Plug one end into the microphone port of your laptop, and plug the other into the headphone socket next to it. You've created a loop with sound coming out of the headphone socket and going back into the laptop via the microphone socket.

Then you just have to open the built in 'Sound Recorder' programme that's in Windows laptops, press record and hey've tricked your laptop into recording from the sound card. Whatever plays on your computer will record. Neat, hey? You can convert the file to an MP3 online or easier still in iTunes

Converting YouTube videos to audio MP3

Taking audio off a YouTube video is, as some of my fellow Scousers might say - piss easy. If the audio isn't copyrighted - yes I know, I know, I keep saying it - you can use any one of a number of sites to rip and save it as an MP3.  works really well. You just copy the URL (the webpage address, top left) from any YouTube video, paste it onto the space provided, and it'll quickly give you the entire audio in MP3 format.

Well, my work here is done...You should be able to freely roam the web on the quest for new music, armed with the tools of a seasoned search obsessive.  And hey, if you come across new ways and methods, feel free to share.


  1. Ha ha so much of this is familiar. It must be our age, I do all this, exactly.
    Good piece.

    1. I'm glad it's not just me then!! And glad you liked the post too!