I am an audiophile but there are no more record stores. I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t drive a lot and do not want to give that little bit of time away to shock jocks and advertising breaks. I stream what I want, when I want over the Bluetooth audio. Convenient as this approach may be, it is a double edged sword because that instant gratification can get you stuck in musical rut. I am an audiophile and I want to discover new sounds. Being stuck at home during a pandemic did nothing for that love of audio discovery.
The pandemic is not when life changed for audiophiles. Music discovery started to change decades ago. The slow death of Tower Records and similar stores also put a dent into finding the next great song. Radio more and more just repeated the same top 40 songs. And we all know that the music industry promotes what it wants, leaving amazing acts to languish in obscurity.
Music discovery is not dead.
It’s shifted and maybe for the better. Your next favorite song or artist is just a click away; if you are listening. The perpetual media feed across our TVs and phones is full of song and artists suggestions. Sometimes it is a small artists whose single is used as a backing track to that new hit TV show. Other times it is a 30-second sample used in a commercial. Or maybe it is something you hear in the overhead speakers in a store or restaurant. Those are just the passive opportunities to discover music that are just a Shazam click away. If you dig deeper, there is a treasure trove of auditory gold.
There is the magical experience that is every Tiny Desk Concert. Or the resurgence and nostalgia of Record Store Day at your local Vinyl Shop. Deep within the pages of Kinfolk you can find new genre busting artists. Occasionally, there is a well curated Spotify Playlist to pair with a book or news article like the one created for President Obama’s “A Promised Land” or those featured in The Bitter Southerner. There are gems waiting to be discovered in the intro and outro songs of your favorite Podcasts or the Ken Tucker reviews on NPR’s Fresh Air. Or there is just the simple act of following along with the Apple Music or Spotify listening habits and recommendations of your friends. Again, Shazam is the key to unlocking all of these moments of discovery. It may be the best mobile app for audiophiles since smartphones hit the market.
Music Discovery as I write this in June of 2021 is now a 24/7 always on exercise; if you are listening. As the vaccination rate ticks up and some areas of the world start to open back up, discovery is changing again. More free to roam, I can bring new life to my Wanderlust playlist that did not change a lot during the pandemic. This playlist is the sonic embodiment of my journeys. It catalogs and represents a snapshot of music I discover while out and about in new places and on new adventures. The pandemic slowed down discovery but also opened up new ways to find new tracks. Coupled with a return to travel and being around others, I can’t wait to hear what the world will sound like in the near future.