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Podcasts for Music Discovery: How Helpful Are They?

How often do you look to podcasts to find new music or revisit old favourites? They could be a green light for upcoming and forgotten artists to take their step into the spotlight.

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA / Unsplash

With such a plethora of streaming apps and websites at our fingertips, the opportunities to discover music are easier than ever, but how often do you look to podcasts to find new music or revisit old favourites?

Podcasts are integral for music discovery. Research shows that 20% of listening time among people between the ages of 15-24 was spent on podcasts, compared to 24% on live radio and 26% on music streaming. Rock and Electronic music sit at the top of the list for genres most explored through music podcasts while Indie Rock and R&B sit at the bottom of the list.

The top music podcast for 2023 was Lost Notes, a series from US radio station KCRW co-hosted by Novena Carmel and Micheal Barnes, which celebrates ‘the greatest music stories never told’, mainly music from around the 80’s, with the aim to celebrate the music that didn’t make the spotlight at the time but deserves accreditation.

In second place was Popcast, hosted by Jon Caramancia, a pop music critic for New York Times. It covers the latest in popular music criticism, trends and news.

Coming in at number three was Song Exploder, created and hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway as part of the Radiotopia podcast network. It's a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, piece by piece, and tell the story of how they were made.

I have recently been delving into the BBC Sounds archive and have discovered Soul Music, a podcast series that explores pieces of music from a plethora of genres with powerful emotional impact. Each episode is titled by the piece of music discussed in that particular episode. As the song is played, it is interrupted with a different speaker, discussing different stories linking to personal life experiences and how that song effected each of their lives. Soul Music opened a new avenue of music discovery for me and allowed me to consider the impact of music through different life experiences. It has made me laugh, cry and be inspired by songs I have previously enjoyed, as well as songs I had a habit to skip on my playlist.

Podcasts are definitely on the rise, and popular artists such as Dua Lipa, David Guetta and Sam Smith are just a few of the people who have opened new doors for their careers through podcasts. It has been found that there are numerous perks to artists starting podcasts, including direct engagement with fans, a promotional vehicle for tours, albums, and potential to create new fans for your music through conversation. By creating or hosting podcasts, musicians can share insights, stories and behind the scene content, creating a deeper connection with listeners.

However, it is key to state that these artists mentioned above had already established their careers within the music and entertainment industry, so podcasting is merely a tool they are using to develop their personas and subliminally market their music.

So, as the market exists currently, music podcasts are definitely not at the top of the charts for music discovery, but it seems that they are of assisting value to the industry as a whole.

The niche of podcasts is a powerful tool that could aid in offering listeners diversity in content as well as opening up new avenues for monetisation and copyright management. Specifically of artists that might not be heard on popular radio stations or steered towards through the algorithms of their preferred streaming platforms. Podcasts could be a green light for upcoming and forgotten artists to take their step into the spotlight.