The introduction of the internet completely revolutionized nearly every aspect of music. Artists can now release material independently on all kinds of websites, labels provide digital downloads of tracks, and even obscure live events get posted all over the place. The bottom line is that the consumption of music has grown exponentially as a result.
One of the most rewarding things about the music world is finding new acts. Being the first one to discover a new band and show it to all your friends makes the long hours of searching worthwhile. Yet there are so many artists with so much music to listen to that it becomes overwhelming. In addition, being the first one to discover a piece of art has become quite difficult. One of the benefits of the current internet is not just the ability to find brand new artists, but discovering those unknown and forgotten ones.
An effective method of discovering unknown artists from previous decades is finding out what successful musicians listen to. While some of them refuse to talk to the media or reveal such information, others actively undertake getting the word out about other groups.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana achieved enormous levels of success and spent numerous interviews talking up bands he felt should get more recognition. Sessions with journalists along with journal entries reveal a surprisingly diverse range of interests, from the low key atmospherics found in Mazzy Star to the obscure punk of Tales of Terror. Although Cobain was known as more of a rocker, these choices not only bring attention to lesser known bands but help in developing a bigger appreciation for his craft.
Since the early 1990s, Jason Pierce has been leading the outfit Spiritualized, a band notorious for producing a body of diverse work that is difficult to describe. Interviews have borne out his preference for discussing others' music rather than his own. Groups often mentioned range from the avant garde jazz of Sun Ra, the classical/rock hybrid of Penguin Café Orchestra, and the experimental art produced by Laurie Anderson. Jason Pierce has long been a tireless promoter of obscure folk records from the 1930s and 1940s as well.
Thurston Moore is a member of the rock icon Sonic Youth, and has always done everything in his power to help unknown bands get more recognition. To this day, he takes an active role in selecting obscure bands to open at his concerts and assists in releasing their music through different labels. Early in his career, it was written of him that "disc jockeys have no place in being musicians" — an apparent attack on his penchant for pushing other bands whenever possible, but this most likely played a big role in the success which came later. Since the mid 1980s, Sonic Youth has played a part in bringing bands such as Beck and the Minutemen to the world, while also being a large influence on the success of grunge music.
These are only three artists and a small sampling of some of the groups they admired. Getting to know a musician's influences is as rewarding as exploring the music they themselves made. The work is worth it and will change the way you hear music.