It's easy to get stuck in a musical rut. It starts out innocently enough--you fall in love with a band and decide to track down (pun totally intended) and listen to everything they've ever released and everything individual band members have released as solo artists. You then start checking out bands that are listed in the same genre or that are endorsed by members of the band you love. Time passes and before you know it you can't remember the last time you listened to anything different than this band (or what they recommend). Suddenly you're ready to try new tunes but...where do you find them?

If this were your parents' day you'd be in for a major challenge--both for your ears and your budget. Finding and trying new music meant investing in albums blindly and hoping like crazy that you'd enjoy what you purchased. Today things are much simpler.

First Stop: The Radio

There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can simply find the closest radio to you (good luck in today's digital age) and turn it on. Or you can pull up a webcast of a radio station and check it out. There are also internet based radio stations. These stations often partner with radio apps and sites like to make it easier for musicphiles like you to find them. Try out a station for an hour or so and if you like what you hear keep listening!

Next Stop: Streaming and Matching Services

There are a lot of great streaming media services on the web. Who doesn't, for example, love hunkering down for a Netflix night? The great thing about Netflix is that it pays attention to what you listen to and the ratings you give the things you watch and then it suggests other programs and movies for you to check out. There are services like this for music too. You can seed them with the songs or bands you've discovered and let them match you with new music based on whatever mysterious algorithm they use to match music to other music. You can also do this with online video sites by pulling up the video for a song you like and then letting the site's automatic playlist choose the next song for you.

Speaking of Television...

One of the best ways to discover new songs and bands is to pay attention to the music that plays during your favorite shows and movies. Everybody knows that television and movies make great use of music to build and guide emotions during important moments. You can look up the music they use online or you can use song-identifying apps to help you figure out what is being played. This is a fantastic way to discover new artists in genres you already enjoy as well as entirely new genres to explore.

Go Social

One way to do this is the old-school way, by simply asking your friends who they like or asking people whose music trust you taste to recommend new tunes. Another way is to make use of your social connections online. Most of the portals through which you can purchase music or listen to music online have some sort of social aspect. Follow your friends there so you can see who they like and what they're buying. Use these feeds as inspiration for your own musical journey.

The point is this: just because you're in a musical rut now doesn't mean you have to stay there. You can explore as much music as you want without ever having to make a purchase...though if you stream something a lot you should probably buy it so your new favorite musicians can afford to make more music for you.