I've never been much of one for awards and awards shows, especially in the skewed and twisted world of the American music industry and film industry. Mainstream I ain't. I'm not going to elaborate on the skewed/twisted part because I'm not in an expounding mood. Let's just suffice it to say that there are literally millions, okay, maybe hundreds of thousands, nah...make that tens of thousands...or at least 10,000 amazing, world class musicians and singers that you will never hear or see. They are out there, practicing their craft in the privacy of their own home, perhaps meeting up with other musicians to rehearse, going out and doing small intimate gigs in various venues. Coffee shops, house concerts, hotel lobby bars, etc. I didn't mention bars/nightclubs because that can be loud/raucous not-so-good stuff, but hey - there are good'uns doing that good work as well - that is your taste.
I'm blessed to live in Austin, Texas, "The Live Music Capital of the World", so I'm exposed to a lot of opportunities to listen/see/hear/experience. We have a fair number of house concerts around Austin, with the most notable by far being the one called Blue Rock. It's out in Wimberley, held at the home of Billy and Dodee Crockett, in their gigantic great room, adjacent to their commercial recording studio. Adjacent meaning in the next room. A house concert is a somewhat casual gathering of folks to listen to a musician or two. Usually traveling/touring troubadours in the singer-songwriter folk/Americana genres. Mostly acoustic, mostly small "walls of sound" - although in the case of Blue Rock and the Cactus Cafe at the University of Texas, there is a great deal of investment in a high-fidelity listening experience. The first time I heard Richard Thompson at the Cactus Cafe (who happens to be my sister-in-law's brother-in-law) - I was dumbfounded as to the extremely high fidelity/sound quality. "Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?" was going through my head. The cover can range from $10 to $30, depending on the artist - and the thing about house concerts is that 100% of the door goes to the artist/s. They also sell CD's and T-shirts and crap during the break and after the show.
The point is to support the artists we love - not by buying a $0.99 song on iTunes - but by truly *supporting them. Show up when they're in your town, buy their CD (preferably from the artist's website, where they get the biggest cut), go to their house concerts...you get the picture. Also, buy the entire CD if you only want one song - like in the old days.
I've only recently really started listening to the words - like really listening to what they say. I have to thank my singer-songwriter most recent ex for that. I call them "poets who sing".
Here's a favorite of mine Sam Beam/Iron & Wine, with Resurrection Fern:
Sorry for the mish-mash/poorly organized post...maybe I'll come back and clean it up...
Local Austin Musicians/Groups:
Minor Mishap Marching Band (my internist plays clarinet)
Austin Piazzolla Quartet (I heard the founding member moved to east Texas)
Glover Gill & The Tosca String Quartet (yes, we have our very own Tango composer)
Iron & Wine/Sam Beam
Band of Heathens
Blue Rock Texas (the Blue Rock website is a great way to discover new artists...they also now offer live streaming of their concerts...)
Uncle Calvin's (in a church in Dallas)
There's one in a church in the Woodlands
Several in Austin proper
Google and ask around - you will find them
"Listening Rooms" is what you are looking for...imagine a concert where everyone is absolutely quiet during the performance - no talking, no getting up and going to the bathroom, etc. - just applause at the end of a song...you are there to listen and let the entire experience wash over you...
Here in Austin it's:
The Cactus Cafe
The Continental Club Upstairs - The Gallery (downstairs is good too, but noisy bar with dancing)
Strange Brew - Lounge Side
Other Spots (here in Austin):
The Lobby Bar at the Driskill Hotel on 6th
The Townsend on Congress
The Elephant Room (for Jazz)
Antone's on 5th (famous venue - more rock genre)
Cheatham Street (San Marcos)
Best to check out the Austin Chronicle Music Calendar for everything...http://www.austinchronicle.com/calendar/music/
Here are my preferred avenues for listening and discovering new music:
Radio station websites (live streaming and other content -KUT, Sun Radio, KEXP are good ones)
YouTube (subscribe to your favorite channels for updates)
Spotify (I prefer over Pandora because I pick what I listen to, subscribe to or follow compilation playlists and then drill down into the various artists, follow your friends - check out the music they are listening to - that's the point)
NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
There is an amazing and plentiful amount of good music out there - a veritable smorgasbord/plethora - oodles gobs superabundance. You just have to be aware, listen, and look for it. I count myself lucky to be "into" music. I listen to it every day. Music completes me.
Good luck and good listening...