Beyond its late role as obligatory, super-expensive job training for the modern workforce, college also serves as a sort of a sort of cultural/pop-cultural swap-meet, a place where you’re surrounded by people who throw art, music, movies, TV, just everything at you every single day and for several years. That’s a pretty awesome side benefit, too.
But when you get old, get isolated, and that firehose of things to explore dries up? You can still find this stuff using music magazines or, later, online (not just because those magazines went online, but through blogs…which, it occurs to me for the first time are like the ‘zines of my youth (look, I’m slow)), but it’s both a lot harder and, often, more narrow; you lose the beneficial scatter-brain nature of inputs that comes with getting thrown together with a bunch of random people. Those people expose you to the names of artists, even entire genres, for you to check out and, when the stars align, fall in love with. Again, pretty damn amazing, but then one’s four or five or six (me) years of college ends and it all goes away.
So, what do you do?
When my interest in music sort of reignited in my mid-30s, I landed on the approach of picking up albums based on the cover. Even as it’s not as central to a musician’s art as his/her music, what a musical artists puts on his/her album cover makes its own artistic statement. And when you’re picking through the bins, the artist makes his/her introduction through the aesthetic choices made on that album cover. As it happened, this approach worked out a lot more often for me than picking a band* than most things I read.