"...listening to as many styles of music as possible is essential"
Art, in any form, is subjective and music is no exception, where one person’s Beatles is another person’s Rancid. What is certain is that with music especially, variety is important and a lot of genres of music are much more connected to each other than you might think. The variety idea is certainly something that is much easier to see today in the instantaneous world of Youtube and Grooveshark, where one can punch in random names and genres and have entire histories of music pop up for consumption. And that’s another thing, consumption; we are no longer “listeners” of music but “consumers” of it. Because it is now so easy to acquire music on the internet, legally or illegally, combined with the advent of larger and larger hard drives, not every piece of music we come across gets the full attention it deserves. I myself am guilty of that, especially since I am somewhat of a completest, and when I find a new artist that I like I used to enjoy collecting as much of their music as I could. If they were an older artist with an extensive back catalog, then watch out! I may not get to listen to all of it or listen to it as much as I should, but at least I “own” the albums, and dedication has to count for something, right? After my computer failed last winter and I lost what I had accumulated I try to be a little more appreciative of the music that I have and the new music that I encounter, and am a little more choosy about what I “consume.”
In terms of the music you choose to listen to, I recommend running the gamut. If you see or hear something you like then listen to it again. If you still like it then take the next step of sitting down and really getting into it, as well as reading books and articles or watching documentaries and movies about these artists. Not all of the information may be accurate or relevant, but the more knowledge you have to filter through the clearer end picture you will have of the musicians that you love. And don’t feel like you’re weird if in the course of an afternoon you move from hip-hop, to metal, to jazz, to techno, and then bring it back down with some funk, it’s all worthwhile. And if you are a musician, listening to as many styles of music as possible is essential, and I highly recommend this if you want to hear how your instrument sounds in different musical contexts.