How I Discover Music: Future-proofing Your Library

Over quarantine, Questlove did an interview where he described his “pruning” process. Basically, he listens to a whole bunch of songs he’s never heard before, and then he mentally puts them into categories. Something along the lines of, ‘oh, I could play this here…’ and whatnot.

Hearing this inspired me to branch out a bit. I would go on one of my music streaming services and listen to one of their “Top 100” playlists or find a new genre I hadn’t paid much attention to before.

Ultimately, I ended up listening to a lot of new artists but I didn’t find much of it really “stuck” with me. I have pretty consistent taste, but sometimes, songs just sound better when they’re in a playlist with 99 other “songs I’d probably never listen to on my own” songs.

When a song I’d added to my library from this process would come up on shuffle a week later, I’d be like “Yuck! Why do I have this?” and I ended up removing a lot of those newfound songs from my library.

A really hard pill I had to learn how to swallow is “Not Everything Is Meant For My Future.”

Sticking to the good ol’ fashioned “Daily Mix” on Spotify or “My Supermix” on YouTube Music or “Get Up! Mix” on Apple Music is probably my best bet when it comes to finding music that I’ll ACTUALLY bring into my future.

But what about the times when I don’t want the algorithm to tell me what to do?

That’s where this bad boy comes in:


Basically, I paid $5 for an app that tells me when any of the artists I follow (on Spotify) comes out with a new album, EP, remix, single, etc.

I had to add a lot of artists and bands manually, since I hadn’t followed everybody on Spotify. It was so worth it, though. Because now, I’ll open the app, and it’ll tell me that a band I listened to in high school just came out with a brand new album.

What about artists and bands I haven’t heard before, you ask?

Pitchfork. The “Browse” tab in Apple Music. The “Explore” tab in YouTube Music.

The reality is, there’s always something new to listen to, but I don’t stress myself out about it. I’m not on a mission to listen to every single latest release ever. Sometimes I’m in the mood to branch out from my usuals, but for the most part, if nobody came out with another song ever again for the next five years, I already have plenty to listen to. (Check out my Prince playlist, if you don’t believe me)

So, now that you heard the backstory, here’s the process:

  1. Check “MusicHarbor” for any new albums in the past week/month.
  2. Pick an album and open in the streaming service of your choosing.
  3. Hit “Play” on the album and go live your life with the music playing in the background.
  4. A song catch you off guard or surprise you at how groovy it is? Drag that track into a “Get This Song” playlist—don’t add to library, as tempting as it sounds. Trust me, this is the future-proofing part.
  5. Album end? Time to choose another one. Head back to MusicHarbor, or head over to the “Browse” tab to REALLY branch out.
  6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until you’re maxed out.
  7. At a much later time, head over to your “Get This Song” playlist mentioned in step 4.
  8. Play the first 30 seconds (max) of each song in this playlist. 30 seconds is PLENTY of time to know if you really want this song or if it just sounded pretty okay at the time.
  9. Add the songs you actually like to your library.
  10. Optional Step, but Required for DJs: FIX THE METADATA. (That 2019 Remaster of an album that originally came out in 1982 SHOULD BE LISTED AS 1982 UNDER YEAR. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR.)

Ultimately, this became a really fun process for me. I still branch out into new genres, but this time around, I make sure to let songs “marinate” for a little while in that “Get This Song” playlist before actually adding the song to my library.

Want to know what happens to songs once they’re officially in my library? Check out my blog post on How I Organize My Music Library.

Giant Cute Pink Music Note