I recently received a gift from my sister and her boyfriend: Coheed and Cambria. They’re a band that has been around for a while, or at least long enough to release seven albums and a series of graphic novels while I wasn’t looking.

I heard one song in the car and I was hooked.

Within a week or two I had CD’s and thumb drives containing not just their current singles, but years and years of content. It’s a deep ocean of music that I’ve yet to finish swimming through, and I never would have discovered it if not for the shuffle of my sister’s iPod.

I will admit that in most cases, I’ve found music through legally dubious means, and purchased it later…or not. Let’s face it, we would all be lying if Limewire or another service like it hasn’t played a role in our lives. Most of us born in the early nineties initially accessed our favorite music this way – but music spread by word-of-mouth is a great way to expand one’s taste for different sounds and genres.

I’ve had similar experiences with many of my favorite musicians – Circa Survive, Regina Spektor, Brand New, etc. All came to me in the form of a single song, a Facebook video, or sometimes a shocked “Haven’t you heard them?” In each case, I was granted access to some of the best music I’d ever heard, the melodies and lyrics that would come to define years of my life.

There’s a bit of a stigma around “getting into” older music, an attitude that newcomers are less in touch with the band and less appreciative of their work. Fans of many bands, especially those acts that began with a cult following and then grew to fame, often subscribe to the idea that there are “real fans” who have been with the band from the beginning and that everyone else has simply jumped on the bandwagon, faking their adoration.

This often scares us away from checking out music we haven’t heard before. The communities that exist around bands are very tight-knit and can be intimidating. Every band begins the same way: a few recordings and small shows, with stories and legends and jokes that only the few who were there can understand. Devoted fans sometimes name themselves, like My Chemical Romance’s “MCRmy” or Coheed’s “Children of the Fence.” They take on the status of a cult fan base, and from the outside can sometimes appear exclusionary.

But if you ever hear someone tell you that your love for a band depends on the year you started listening to them, know they are dead wrong.

Each time I have added new music with a strong following to my library, I have been welcomed warmly by longtime fans. I’ve been given recommendations, sent music, and made some great friends. It is a very positive experience to become a part of any fan base – the sense of solidarity that exists in musical fandoms is unique.

So next time you hear a song that stirs you, or wonder what the band everyone is talking about sounds like, don’t be afraid to seek it out. It might be the start of something truly wonderful.