Discovering the Undiscovered - How to Find New Music

Searching for music and artists like Allen Stone, Irma Thomas and Pokey LaFarge

DJ Justin Kanoya explores some of the ways to find new music that works well for cocktail and dinner hours and just about any other non-dance period during an event. 

One of the most arduous tasks -- but still fun -- of being a DJ is sorting through the mountains of music that I have access to on a daily basis. While it’s important to be up-to-date on the latest hits and chart toppers, it’s equally important to find those less heard tracks.

The reason I like to explore off chart music, is less about wanting to introduce new music to an audience -- although that is an incentive -- and more about finding music that works well for those times during a set when dance floor fillers are not needed. I’m talking about those cocktail and dinner hours, and the music to play when people are walking into a room, or when leaving a party.

I also play music for award shows and galas, so it’s important to have a library of “walk-up” tracks (songs that are played literally as people are walking on and off stage).

Why “unknown” tracks vs. the latest upbeat Justin Bieber song? For starters, you do not want to waste a good dance song while everyone is sitting and having their dinner or sipping a cocktail. Since music sets a tone and vibe to a room, I don’t want people to be too into what is playing during these times at an event.

Think about the last time you were having a conversation and a song you really like came on in the background. You probably stopped and said, “oh, I love this song.” Or maybe started to sing along. I don’t want to disrupt dinner conversation or interfere with the first impression when people walk into a room. I want the music to complement that.

Therefore, playing music that has a great beat, but one that a person has likely not heard, does just that. It complements everything else, enhancing their experience.

I dig around for this type of music a couple of different ways.

Dive into your music subscriptions. If you are getting paid to DJ, you should be paying for your music. Online music pools, such as BPM Supreme, Promo Only, DJ City and others are the best way to stay current. Set aside time to listen to tracks and artists you haven’t heard before and note what may work for those “non-dance” times of an event.

The other tool I’ve been using lately is Spotify. This popular online streaming music service has been invaluable in discovering new music. Not only does it have hundreds, if not thousands of pre-made playlists for what seems like an inifite number of genres, there is also also the weekly updated “Discover Weekly” section. For those using Spotify, just tap or click the “Discover” tab and proceed to a set of music that has been custom made just for you, based on your past listening choices.

Each week on the “Here and Now” show on National Public Radio titled “DJ Sessions.” It features a guest that is a genre expert who presents a list of new songs from up-and-comers. The portion of the show, usually not longer than 10 minute, provides snippets of the songs and is fun to listen to as it provides some insight on the artist. The songs are also added to the “Here and Now” playlist on Spotify. Once again, if you’re a Spotify user, log on and subscribe to this great playlist.

New music is just a click away, so go digging and see what you can find. Also, tell me what artists you like to play for cocktail or dinner hour?