How do you experiment with a new musician to see if you like them

If you decide you want to try listening to a new musician to see if you like them, what is your method of doing so?

Normally I will get the greatest hits CD and listen to that. That or I will type in to google ‘(Band name) best album’ and listen to that.

But part of me wonders if I’m really getting a good chance with that. Hit songs aren’t always the best songs, and I can name several bands where the hit songs weren’t anywhere near the best songs on various albums.

And a band’s best album to someone else may not be the same best I’d label it.

What do other people do? I assume most people do one of the things above (that or check youtube or pandora or some other site) to try a new band to see if you like them. If a musician has 200+ songs and 10+ albums, how do you get a good representation of their work by only listening to 10 songs or 1 album? Who they are in the start of their career, middle and end could be totally different.

Youtube or the record label website. Relapse and Century Media in particular are really good about keeping their websites current and chock full of media. Failing that, I just find the artist on myspace or facebook or band camp or their own website. And sometimes I just go ahead and buy their latest album (or whichever one had the song I heard that sparked my interest, if applicable).

Songs performed on The Voice has introduced me to new artists. I use google to find out who did the song and had a hit with it. Then check out the artist’s other stuff on youtube.

Good question. Sometimes the “greatest hits” is the best way to be introduced to a new band/artist, but sometimes it isn’t. Often I’ll try to read through some of the things people are saying about various albums (e.g. in the customer reviews on Amazon, or on a music review website, or in a discussion here) and see which album people think is the best entry point (probably not one that’s said to be less accessible, or less characteristic of the artist’s overall output, or that sharply divides the opinions of fans, as the one I start with).

And of course sometimes availability is a factor: of their highly regarded albums, which one’s easiest/cheapest to get my hands on.

I usually try out their debut album and/or their first hit album to get a taster of what they have to offer, then go from there. Some bands get better over time, but probably most gradually get worse, so I don’t often start with their latest album. Also, I try to hear samples first before buying. Generally, I avoid greatest hits albums unless I plan on buying only one album of the artist.

One trick I’ve discovered is to work outwards chronologically from an album I know I particularly like.

Say I’ve fallen in love with Band X’s 1992 album, which I discover was the fifth one they released in a twelve-album career. I’ll next buy their fourth and sixth albums and then continue working my way outwards till I hit one I don’t enjoy at all.

The idea is to maximise my chances of finding albums by the band while they were still in the stage of development I happen to like most. Often, by the time I’ve got two or three albums out from the centre, I’ll have discovered enough of interest in the band’s work to go ahead and buy their less “typical” stuff too.

I try and youtube a couple of songs from various albums. I also check out the ratings for the albums on wikipedia and try to listen to the most acclaimed ones. If I really dig what I hear from those, then I’ll try to listen to their lesser work.

I don’t generally listen to a new musician until I have already heard something they’ve done and been taken by it. Mostly new stuff I discover isn’t by bands with big enough back catologues to have a greatest hits so I check out youtube or grab the album the song is off.

I listen to their catalog on Spotify. I sort of put it on in the background at work and see if anything jumps out at me.

In addition to the points above, I also use and see what their recommended tracks from albums are and quickly listen to the samples on their website.

Typically, though, if there’s a greatest hits CD, I start with that to see if I like the general sound of the band. Or I also do what you do and google “(band name) best song/album”.

Also in addition to what’s recommended before, I’ve gotten to know the folks at the local record store. They’re usually pretty happy to play anything I’d like to check out while I’m browsing, and can recommend stuff that might be up my alley based on the records I ask about. Kind of like a web site’s recommendations, but they’re actually thinking about the music, not just associating shopping patterns.

It may not be a technique that’s suitable for someone who doesn’t want to browse record stores, but It’s how I found out about Robert Ellis. He’s my current favorite, and I’m pretty sure I would have never heard otherwise.

I generally use Spotify; they have a very good collection of artists and you can listen to an album to decide (I used to review albums for my record station; it only took about ten minutes to know if the artist was any good).

I usually try to find their “Highest rated” material, at least by the critics, give that a shot, maybe search for what the fans like next, because it could be different. If they are part of many different projects, you may just need to ask someone who knows. Find a message board, ask for a good sampling of their work and test the waters.

I was doing quite a bit of travelling in the States a few years ago, and I got in the habit of asking the staff at every independent record shop I found to recommend a rootsy local band or singer whose reputation hadn’t yet reached beyond the town/city/state where we were talking. Nine times out of ten, this produced an interesting CD I’d never have discovered otherwise.

I’m a big fan of Pandora, so usually I discover the new musician there from one of my radio stations. Pandora provides lots of information about other similar bands and similar songs, with an album list, etc. There’s also a bio and usually a description of each album to give me a sense of major stylistic changes over their career. So that’s my starting point - a particular song and the overall discography.

After that, I really want to listen to a whole album. I don’t buy groups who can’t put together a solid album… and usually I don’t start buying until I’m sure there are two or three solid albums. If I only like one or two of your songs from any given album, you can stay on my Pandora station.

YouTube winds up being one of the easiest places to listen to a whole album. YouTube also has lots of user comments. Once I filter through the idiots, I can usually learn some more about other good songs or albums by the group. If I’m not in love with what I’ve heard so far, I’ll hop around and try different songs or different albums by that group until I feel like I’ve got a sense of them.

Then I give it a few days. If I go a week without feeling the urge to come back to YouTube again, then I know I can live without this band. If I do feel an urge to listen to more of something, that’s what I buy.

I use Xbox Music (formerly Zune) which is a simple all-you-can-eat subscription service. I’ll usually go to the artist’s page and their songs will be ranked in order of popularity. I’ll play that list, and if anything stands out, I’ll usually grab the album it’s from and work out from there.