Sites and sounds
Finding new or obscure bands and limited-edition records used to be a life of poring through various record stores and charity shops. With the internet, you can find the music you want via millions of suggestions from podcasts, fanzines, blogs and websites.
Inevitably, this affects the music industry. Local musician (of the band Hungry Ghosts) and DJ Paul Lam says 'the convenience of experiencing new music instantaneously has made enjoying a full album almost obsolete. Tastes can grow and evolve with an album; now we only download what affects us immediately.' Lam embraces the digital age but laments the failure of traditional music stores in Hong Kong. 'HMV has shut its flagship store in Central and small boutique stores like White Noise Records increasingly migrate to online sales. There's no sense of community.'
Others find the digital age limitless. 'It makes music accessible to everyone on the planet. Anyone can listen to any kind of music, from any part of the world, at the push of a button,' says Channel [V] International VJ Lisa 'S' Selesner.
For music makers, the internet has removed the reins from the music industry and given them to the music lovers themselves, says Jocelyn Liipfert, digital account director at TBWA\Tequila. 'Artists have to rethink the way they make a living from their music and how they can better connect with their fans,' she says.
Some old searching habits - fanzines and the radio - are well maintained online. 'It's easier to find underground music - even if it's from a band that put out one demo 20 years ago,' says local musician and showcase organiser Arthur Urquiola.
In fact, with such an overwhelming choice, the real question in searching for new music is where to start. Perhaps the answer lies in how you traditionally used to find inspiration; you can probably find a site to match.
Most print music magazines have online editions. Britain's NME (www.nme.com) includes a New Music tab and allows browsers to buy music via sites such as Amazon. The reviews section doesn't include song snippets, but the album database might link you to a YouTube video.
US-based Spin magazine (www.spin.com) has trial-launched Spin Earth, which includes live videos and interviews provided by a worldwide network of freelance contributors. It now plans to combine that with the online magazine, which is also available as a digital booklet.
If you used to love mixtapes and sourcing a specific genre through compilations, limited mixes are downloadable, but try Pitchfork (pitchfork.com) for real access to music. The online magazine, founded in 1995, focuses on underground and independent (indie) music, electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, folk, jazz, metal and experimental genres. You can find music news and features, artist pages, festival information, a 'best new tracks' playlist, the Forkcast (an information feed) and a television channel, as well as staff lists (1960s, 70s, top albums of 2000, etc).
Marco Bresciani, a producer at Channel [V] International, uses Hype Machine (Hypem.com). 'They have the craziest mixes, and the radio app is good,' he says. Hype Machine compiles information from staff-picked music bloggers, helping you with 'easy analysis, consumption and discovery'. The process isn't taken lightly; they ask why the writer blogs and how long they've blogged for, and check presentation style. They choose only 'genuine voices' - those naturally passionate about what they hear - and won't include official blogs.
For those who look to like-minded music lovers for recommendations, Facebook and Twitter enable you to ask friends worldwide for input, and YouTube - one easy way to post a song online - has a good suggestion list.
Two sites that rely on user involvement are BIRP!FM (www.birp.fm) and GoRankem (gorankem.com), which actively promotes itself as a crowdsourcing site. BIRP!FM publishes a monthly compilation of more than 100 primarily indie tracks, downloadable via a torrent link. Playlists, including member-created ones, are archived on the site. There's a dedicated new music blog, a forum, and it actively encourages independent musicians to upload music for consideration in a playlist. GoRankem, 'the cheat sheet of the music industry', believes that no one has time to read endless reviews and that underground music is overlooked. Trusting that fans 'know the artist best', users can rank five to 20 songs per artist and give a 'fanstanding' - rating their fan-ship from one to 10.
National radio services are still loved, and the internet makes many of them accessible to a global audience. If you're looking for something more obscure, Hampton Roads' WHRO (whro.org) includes a 24-7 1920s channel playing big band, nostalgia, and Old Time Radio.
National radio services also sometimes include more local acts: The Current, based in the US, promises to bring listeners 'the best authentic new music alongside the music that inspired it'. BBC radio programmes are also available online. Programmes range from BBC Radio Three's Late Junction (www.bbc.co.uk), featuring an eclectic mix of world music, and Guy Garvey's Finest Hour on BBC Radio Six, showcasing indie and folk; to Gilles Peterson's BBC Radio One show, spinning soul, hip hop, house, Afro, Latin, dubstep and jazz.