Aside from the better gas mileage and the smell, the best feature of my new car is that it has multiple audio inputs: Bluetooth, USB, auxiliary -- if a device emits sound, my car can probably play it if I find the right cord.
It was finally time for me to leave the radio behind and embrace a reality where I listened to what I wanted when I wanted.
Still, the first time I hit the button to switch over to my MP3 player and away from the radio, I felt a hint of doubt. What would I be missing by giving up on the industry I used to love and, more importantly, how would I find new music?
But then I remembered: I don't need the radio to find new music.
One of the best things about the age we live in is our access to information. Information is more than just facts and statistics -- it's objects, ideas, media. While music has always been in grocery stores, restaurants, and clubs, the amount of music that those places have access to has risen dramatically.
Think about how many times you interact with music on a daily basis. If you hated music, if the sound of notes in a melodic order just drove you insane, you'd have to work really hard to avoid it all the time.
And so while I might still flip over to the radio from time to time, I know I shouldn't worry. I've found some of my favorite songs and bands through unconventional means.
It's easy to find out what your friends are listening to. You ride around in their cars; you talk about upcoming shows; you stalk their Facebook. But how do you find out what complete strangers are into?
Karaoke is an interesting window into the souls of others. What do they like when they're drunk and want to party? What songs do they know so well they can sing without looking at the screen? What songs do they throw their entire body into?
It's true, you'll end up sitting through a lot of the same songs every time, but occasionally someone might come along who surprises you. Keep an open mind, and look out for the people who really study the karaoke book.
Real-world music shows up in video games in a lot of different forms. Whether it's a playlist on a fake radio station, simulating a performance on fake instruments, or giving the player something to listen to while they're scrolling through menus, companies shell out a fair amount of money to license songs for their games.
Consider all the people that like video games. Now, how many of those people like baseball? And of those people, how many of them have heard of Jeff The Brotherhood? That number might have been pretty low before this year, but now a ton of people are going to get exposed to them because of their appearances in multiple baseball video games.
Not every game is going to have a stellar soundtrack, but if you do pick up a game that does, don't be afraid to sit on the menu for a few minutes.
Take a chance
I love music stores that have a used-CD section. Lower prices means you can afford to take a chance on a album you might normally pass up.
I'm not talking about albums you've wanted and have been patiently waiting on to drop in price either. Pick a genre and start digging through the releases. Read the labels and look at the covers. Find something that stands out -- a weird band name, an interesting album title, fun cover art. Find a compilation disc with one band you like and ten bands you've never heard of.
And don't feel too bad about buying a used CD. If you really want to support the artist, you can always buy an overpriced shirt when they come to town.
The World At Large
The other day I had a craving for waffles, so I hit up a local food truck. What impressed me, aside from the food, was that they had a monitor showing music videos that you could watch while you waited. Pretty clever.
I knew most of the songs that were played, but there was one that I had never heard of before that rooted its way in to my brain. I don't know who Medina is or if she's always looked like Lady Gaga, but I do know that the part of me that likes silly pop music really dug her song. That's something I would have never discovered had I not wanted waffles.
I'm not saying that food trucks are a viable means of music discovery, but some of them might be. Any time you step outside your door and in to the world there's a chance you'll discover a new song. Just remember to keep your mind open, your ears listening, and Shazam ready when you need it.