Discovering New Music with DJ Sam Sam

By Samira Nematollahi // DJ Sam Sam

If you are like me, then you have been spending this time at home trying to find new music. I go through phases of listening to the same album for weekson end until I find another one that I replace it with. Now, however, I have been trying to be more intentional in finding music from genres and artists that I don’t normally listen to. Saying that you want to start expanding your music taste is all fine and dandy until you realize that your mind went into autopilot and you somehow ended up listening to Assume Form by James Blake for the hundredth time.

As WUSC listeners, you all typically have it easy because you can just tune inand hear the latest in non-top 40 music, and while you still can tune in to hear non-top 40 music, it just won’t be the latest (because we are currently in automation as campus is essentially closed to help contain the spread of COVID-19). To supplement that, I want to share with you how I go about discovering new music – most of which would normally end up aired on my show.

Curated Playlists

The easiest way to find new music is to go through some of the popular curated playlists on your choice streaming platform. I use Spotify, so the playlists that I will be talking about are from there. The beautiful thing about the curated playlists is that most of the work is done for you, you just need to hit play. Most of the playlists that are not just “Top Hits of X Genre” are going to highlight underground artists and up and comers.

POLLEN: This is my current favorite playlist. Its intention is to be a playlist that does not center around a genre, but rather focuses on the qualityof the songs. That said, most of the songs do stilltend to have a similar sound – many of the songshave clear Hip-Hop and R&B influences. I imagine this playlist is one that you would have on in the background when you are having a low-key night with your friends. You are not likely going to hear a 100 gecs song in this playlist, but you will hear songs from artists like Yves Tumor, Cairo and Caribou.

HYPERPOP: This playlist is one where you definitely could find a 100 gecs song. Last semester, I obsessed over pop music and this playlist highlights some of the best, forward-thinking pop music out now. If you are a casual pop listener and want to listen to artists that are working to shape the future of pop, then this playlist is a must. I have used this to find some of my current favorite songs like “XS” by Rina Sawayama and “RACECAR” by Deaton Chris Anthony. As opposed to the low-key vibe of POLLEN, HYPERPOP is more appropriate for finding music that makes you want to get up and dance along.

Of course, I also browse through the playlists of my fellow WUSC DJs that we often share as sources of new music. With all of us being cooped up in our homes you are bound to see plenty playlists from us!

New Releases

“Duh, DJ Sam Sam. This is an obvious way to find new music.” Okay, yes. Butit is incredibly easy to miss out on new releases that you might like. I have found that if you are systematic with your search, you can minimize the number of overlooked songs.

Here is my strategy. I have a playlist on Spotify that I have titled “listen to this,” and while I am searching through the new releases of the week, I add anything that is from an artists I know, has an interesting name or cover art, or draws me in for whatever reason. Then for the next few days I listen to thesongs in that playlist and filter out the songs that I like into existing playlists that I have that they would fit in and I delete the ones that I didn’t care for.

I also like to browse websites of other organizations like Pitchfork and NPR that keep up with new releases to see what they are recommending. Now might be a good time to catch up on all of those episodes of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert that you have missed – there are a LOT of artists to discover there.

North American College and Community RadioCharts (NACC)

The NACC is the organization that WUSC submits ourcharts to. It is a collection of large and small collegeand community radio stations, so its charts highlightthe best of music that you would here on WUSC andsimilar stations.

When I first started as a DJ, I had no idea how to find music outside of what we had on rotation in the station or what I had normally been listening to, but the NACC charts exposed me to so much music that I was missing out on. It is diverse in genre and in level of popularity. There are often artists thatyou have heard of before, but there will always be an artist that you had not heard of featured on the chart.

While WUSC is on automated programming, this playlist is a great way to access the music that you would have likely heard on air. You can access their list on their website which updates every week or on their Spotify playlist which features some highlights of the weekly charts.