Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Fun Friday Musical Tastes

Right after I finished my undergrad in 1994, I subscribed to CMJ: New Music Monthly. The magazine had a full CD of new music on it every month (I have no idea if that's how they do it now or not). Every month was a whole CD of music I loved. It was great. I often looked really cool by knowing about music well before anyone else did.

I had a subscription for a couple years, and then when we moved out east in 1997, we let it lapse. Every now and then I would think about the magazine and say to myself that I should resubscribe.

So one day I bought an issue without looking at its contents. It was not pretty. Here I was a few year's out of college and there was ZERO music that I liked on the disc. Had music changed that much?

I hadn't thought much about the magazine until I found a mix CD I had burned of all the songs I really liked from the monthly CDs I had accumulated. It's a mixed bag. While I still like songs from The Stone Roses, Rake's Progress, Citizen King, and Portable, there's a lot I don't care for as much anymore. Like who? Like Jill Sobule, Hagfish, Dangerman, and Throwing Muses.

And who's heard of any of these bands these days? People think today's bands have weird names, but what about Jimmie's Chicken Shack or Fun Loving' Criminals or Ben Folds Five? The disc is a strange testament to my former music tastes. Now, Ben Folds Five is not on the mix CD since I bought their entire album, and their subsequent album, but they were a band I discovered through CMJ.

So how do you discover new music these days? Where can you point your patrons to find the hot songs of today that will be in the 'cutout bin' of tomorrow?

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  • At 2:09 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    I was thinking about this very thing just last night! I used to obsessively check the CMJ website for reviews in 1998-99, and then go buy whatever I thought sounded like my cup of tea.

    Currently, my boyfriend subscribes to the New Releases newsletter from Allmusic.com, and we do "song samples" once per week via Allmusic or Amazon. Still, it's not ideal. I am sure there are better ways. Other magazines ( comes to mind) come with CDs but they seem to have a little more Adult Contemporary than I like.

  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger Jess Nevins said…

    I don't have to do musical recommendations, thank heavens--the college kids are hipper to music than I am--but I listen to Yahoo Launchcast every day. Admittedly, most of what I listen to is techno/electronica, which is hardly the same kind of new music you were mentioning, but you still get new bands that way.

  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger gfoskett said…

    Try Paste Magazine (http://www.pastemagazine.com/). They have a CD with each issue as well, sounds very similar to CMJ.

  • At 4:27 PM, Blogger Bailey said…

    I use onlylyrics.com - they usually post lyrics to singles that have just been released. Clicking on each "music style" lets you see the new singles for that section. It introduces me to songs that otherwise I might not find out about!

  • At 6:45 PM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Like Heather, I find Paste to be a little more adult contemporary than I can stand. We subscribe to Rolling Stone (hoary old warhorse that it is, there's always one good article in each issue) and Magnet, and pick up the occasional issue of Uncut, a British magazine that always comes with a CD. Online, I like Pitchfork Media, AllMusic, and Stereogum, as well as listening to streaming audio from BBC's 6Music (shout-out to my husband, the biggest music obsessive I know, who discovered it) and even NPR's music site.

  • At 9:14 PM, Blogger John Klima said…

    I'm not sure where I hear about new music. I remember buying Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen before they were everywhere. Just recently I got into the Fratellis. I still listen to a lot of harder music, but there are so many more bands around these days than even when I was in college. Or maybe with the Internet it's just that you're able to hear about all the bands you never heard about before.

    I know that I used to get new music ideas from Best Week Ever semi-regular feature Listen Up that gave links to MP3s. And I'll use MySpace and hypem.com to listen to bands I hear people talk about. But I rarely buy whole albums anymore, and I'm not in charge of music for any library I work at, either.

  • At 4:05 PM, Blogger Emily Lloyd said…

    If you haven't, check out The Hype Machine: hypem.com

    --it posts, round-up style, links to mp3s that "mp3 blog" bloggers have posted recently--plenty of amazing music enthusiasts out there post mp3s on their sites (a good number legally--for promotional reasons). Take an hour or two once a month (the most I can usually scrounge with kids and two jobs [grin]) and just listen around there--you can listen at the Hype site itself, then click to the original post to download. Note: links to free mp3s generally expire pretty quickly (last month's posts will probably not contain free mp3s).

    The blogs and bloggers the Hype Machine covers tend to be "advance-guard" by about 6 months--they were posting Feist and Amy Winehouse at least 6 months before either became widely known, for example. I've found some of my all-time favorite songs via this resource. You'll also find lots of covers/more obscure stuff.

  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger W. Greg Taylor said…

    Good question...for myself, I find new music from the shelves of the libraries where I work and visit, through last.fm, through MySpace, and through ChartAttack (www.chartattack.com)].


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