Discovering music in 2015

The waiting drove me mad

National Panasonic RS-4360 DFT. Discovering music was different when these were popular.
National Panasonic RS-4360 DFT. Discovering music was different when these were popular.

My first tank car was a 1985 Volvo 240DL sedan. Painted some shade of gray blue, we brought it home in the summer of 1993. I drove it four years before handing it down to my sister. The only change I ever made was to replace the CD-less stock radio with a basic Panasonic: single CD player, twelve FM presets, six AM. I used six of the FM presets and only one of the AM (WFAN – a sports talk radio station in New York).

The morning commute was exclusively AM. All other drive time was split between the FM presets and CD-player. There was a clear relationship between the two: FM radio presets were for discovery; the CD-player was for the discovered. I wrote down radio songs I liked on a notepad I kept in the car.  

One of three conditions would trigger a trip to the CD store:

  • the list would grow long (maybe five or six songs? — at $15.99 / CD, that’s a long list for a teenager)
  • four weeks had passed since my last trip
  • I just had to have a song and wouldn’t wait for either one of the first two conditions  (in 1995, Run Around triggered this condition)


I don’t want to hear from those who know

Discovery continued at the store. Stoner music-junkie clerks are amazing sherpas. Radio was my point of departure, the CD-store was the full-on expedition.

<!– Nostalgic side note: My go-to CD store was Murray’s Compact Disc in Fairfield, CT. With the exception of a well-intentioned but misguided Columbia House experiment (read the comments), I shopped there exclusively. Maybe you had your own version of Murray’s? Going there was what marketers today call an experience. Here’s a 1995 article documenting what made Murray’s so special; here’s one written six years later. You can guess what happened. Both links are worth reading if you want to reminisce about buying music in the ’90s–>

This terrestrial radio-discovery continued for years. Digital services like Pandora, Spotify and YouTube replaced only my CD player. Occasionally, I browsed their recommendations. Usually, I arrived knowing what I wanted.

Moving to Korea and selling my car changed that. Now I ride the subway, the bus and the train. Someone else programs the presets. Top40 DJ’s no longer set my musical agenda and, of course, the music store sherpa is long unemployed.


Absolutely nothing’s changed

Discovering new music thrills at 38 the same way it did at 16. Maybe more. The kind of instant access we have to music increases our control of and participation in the search. The presets have changed, and the notepad is digital, but the hunt continues. Here’s what I found in 2015.


New music sources
  • Spotify Browse
    • New Music Friday is a hit or miss playlist. No customization, just newly released tracks.
    • Discover Weekly is a customized playlist and generally amazing. The Verge takes an in depth look at how it works. The joy from the hits far outweighs the disappointment from the misses.
  • Cool Hunting’s ListenUpa Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that rounds up the music we tweeted throughout the week…
  • NPR’s Songs We Love400 of the best songs of 2015, as selected by NPR Music. These are the ones we couldn’t stop playing, the ones we shared, the ones we kept close all year long.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *