Music is what it's all about- you're raising an importat question. I believe that there's wonderful payoffs to researching & uncovering great music. It's worth the time.
I check music threads at audiogon, audioasylum.com, audiocircle.com & allaboutjazz.com For world music, rootsworld.com and 6moons.com have excellent reviews.
Also, when I find music I enjoy, I take the extra step of looking on amazon.com to see what other purchases people with similar listening tastes bought or/and recommend. To expand my library, I also look on amazon.com in United Kingdom, as different musicians ("authors" as the Brits call them) are popular on the continent.
allmusic.com also can be a source to locate similar artists, and a way to expand into the background musicians included in the band. Their descriptions often highlight musicians who influenced the sound I'm researching.
Many of these sites have short downloads so you can get the audio flavor of new music. There's a giant smorgasbord out there. So much music, so little time.
I listen to the PBS stations in my area. This gets me lots of good jazz and classical music to pick from. Most of these stations will have playlists with full info on the website, so it's easy to find the artist/title.
Sirius Satellite Radio (Pure Jazz 72) has introduced me to quite a number of contemporary new jazz releases. The most recent acquisition (based upon introduction via Sirius) is *Exploration* - by the Grachan Moncur III Octet - superb cd!!
XM Radio - I keep a notepad in the car, as there is a lot of great music in a wide range of genres
www.cdbaby.com - Great selection, and samples of most artists
I like to check the liner notes of the music that I'm listening to at the time, see who's singing harmony or who is sitting in on the session. Check and see what they've released and buy that. Then start over again!
Streaming radio. I'm lucky enough to be able to listen at work. When something interesting comes up, I put it on one of my wish lists. I can later research the find a little more thoroughly and make a decision to purchase or not.
for those in So. California the radio station 88.5 on Sundays from 6am till noon is new age style music, from 12 to 3 is blues, 3 to 6 is reggae and 6 to 8 is folk music. I find alot of great music on it that I buy later. For those with internet radio their website is KSBR.org.
Find out if "World Cafe" is broadcast in your area (on public radio). It's a great show that promotes a lot of new music (mostly what I would consider adult-oriented rock or adult alternative).
I'm lucky enough to have 88.5 WXPN Phili for the first half of my commute and 90.5 (WBJB?) "The Night" for the second half each morning. (And vv on the way home). Both are public radio stations that really explore the best unplayed and hardly played new singer-song-writers out there. I love it.
www.wfmu.org or NJ West Orange 91.1;
anything that comes up with label Axiom, Nonsuch, Spoon, Discipline and certainly ECM.
I go to Barnes & Noble. They let you listen to any cds you wish prior to buying.
DirecTV has pretty good music channels and you can look up the artists name and then go buy it. My college radio station is where I get most my ideas. Also the magazines like TAS and Stereophile or HI FI+ all recommend some terrific music which is half the reason I buy them.
Elevators, shopping malls, and my dentist's office.
PS Good thread!
On a more thoughtful note of response; My sources vary widely and include some of those listed above. I'd add to the list some very good friends who are constantly on the prowl for good music. A'gon forums too. Another good resource I've found, believe it or not, is Amazon. Many times when I've been introduced to something new I'll go take a peek at what other folks who liked that particular artist are buying. I wouldn't go as far as to buy such a recomendation blindly, but i will actively seek out recommendations based upon things that come up frequently there in my searches.
Although FM radio is sometimes helpful, I often buy music based on the artist, the composer, and similarity to recordings that I already have and like. For example, if I like one Mozart Symphony performance by a particular conductor and orchestra, I would be likely to buy another Mozart symphony recording by the same outfit. I am also influenced by technical quality of the recording...for example I buy almost every Tacet DVDA that I can find.
College Radio Stations! I have heard more great new (and old) music recently by tuning in college radio staions in my area. Around here there is very little commercial FM worth listening to. The typical hit stations, hip-hop and rap and of course the station that makes sure you never go a full 24 hours without hearing the same 50 songs you have heard 10,000 times already. I call it "Stairway to Freebird" radio.
If it was not for Gaston College, Isothermal College and NPR, I wouldnt need radio.
Public Library- free check out of up to 5 CD's -listen to it all for 2 weeks not 30 second bytes
there are many, many information sources that I use for research, and I pay close attention to music I hear in Movies, TV, Radio, etc. Here's my list somewhat in order of best to worst:
1) Amazon.com - I use their recommendations, surf genres, read reviews . . . these lead me to new artists and music. This research process is also applied to the next 3 internet sources too. The resarch leads to listening to the sound bites. If I like, I buy. If I like it when it's delivered and I've had the chance to listen to the whole thing, I use it to begin the next search.
2) Audiogon discussions. . . followed up by surfing Amazon.com
3) Other Music web sites - Artist sites, Progressive Ears, Allmusic.com, etc. I start with somone I know, follow the reviews and artist history to other music and artists
4) Joe's Record Paradise - my new source for used vinyl. I search the racks and buy.
5) Music I hear in Movies, and on TV
6) Recommendations of friends, relatives, acquintences (my teats are pretty eclectic, maybe strange so this isn't as productive as one might think it would be.
7) Radio - Stations around me are bad, and I really don't like much of what I hear on FM, but now and then something comes along.
For indie/alternative music check out:
kcrw.com (morning becomes eclectic)
I have found my local npr station, wdet for me here in Detroit, to be a great source for new music. They have a wide variety of material you don't hear on the normal stations. I ran a thread a few weeks ago with the same title, in case you want to read a few more responses to the same question.
KCRW 89.9 FM in Santa Monica, my local college/NPR station. Eclectic music programming that frequently introduces new performers long before the mainstream even hears of them. The 6/26/05 New York Times Magazine has an article about Nic Harcourt, KCRW's music program director.
Check out Nic Harcourt's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program for an interesting mix of music. Frequent live-in-studio sessions. Another favorite is Tom Schnabel's "Cafe LA" show for a mix of World and Jazz. Jason Bentley's "Metropolis" for lovers of electronica. Garth Trinidad's "Chocolate City" for R&B and Funk that you will not hear anywhere else.
You can go to their website at http://www.kcrw.com
to check out their programming and playlists. Streaming webcasts and downloads of archived programs are available.
I just went to a rock festival, with multiple stages. On the smaller stages, I heard some interesting bands (also a lot of bad, would-be rockmusicians), so I'm going to a specialized store to listen if those bands still sound good when I'm sober........