Best Cities for Music Fans in 2016

by Douglas Burger

 
 
 
 

When it comes to seeing a favorite band in concert, people will go to extreme lengths: wait hours in line, hit redial over and over, refresh the ticket page repeatedly—whatever it takes. Music is an important part of many people’s lives, and we set out to determine the best cities in the U.S. for music fans. We looked at 15 different data points grouped into three categories to come up with our answers. Below you will find our results, as well as a detailed methodology explaining how we arrived at them.

Best Cities for Music Fans 

Here is how 200 metropolitan statistical areas with qualifying data stacked up in the three separate categories that we studied. In all rankings below, a lower number is better than a higher number.

Rank Area The Band The Crowd The Intangibles
1 Nashville-Davidson—Murfreesboro—Franklin, TN 1 36 62
2 Urban Honolulu, HI 21 46 16
3 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 9 56 48
4 Madison, WI 40 19 34
5 Austin-Round Rock, TX 17 65 14
6 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 42 13 45
7 Tucson, AZ 29 53 6
8 Rochester, NY 33 10 84
9 Pittsburgh, PA 25 31 76
10 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 4 109 2
11 Salt Lake City, UT 24 48 70
12 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 27 57 48
13 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 13 86 40
14 Eugene, OR 14 79 52
15 Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA 5 118 3
16 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 15 94 26
17 Asheville, NC 40 8 129
18 Burlington-South Burlington, VT 65 3 67
19 Boulder, CO 7 122 4
20 Binghamton, NY 33 21 147
21 Wilmington, NC 29 61 86
22 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 44 35 102
23 Fort Collins, CO 62 39 41
24 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 37 70 64
25 Duluth, MN-WI 70 2 104
26 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 3 150 10
27 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 2 159 1
28 Sioux Falls, SD 77 1 95
29 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 20 128 18
29 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 49 81 25
31 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 6 156 8
32 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 55 77 28
33 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 21 138 13
34 Trenton, NJ 10 154 29
35 Colorado Springs, CO 68 52 60
35 Lincoln, NE 90 9 80
37 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 8 137 72
38 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 18 147 27
39 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 39 96 67
40 Gainesville, FL 108 27 14
41 Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 57 109 5
42 St. Louis, MO-IL 70 39 107
43 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 48 92 71
44 Appleton, WI 50 43 165
45 Champaign-Urbana, IL 117 17 17
45 Lynchburg, VA 51 84 81
47 Charlottesville, VA 47 114 36
48 Rockford, IL 19 103 144
49 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 43 133 20
50 Portland-South Portland, ME 28 80 173
51 Greensboro-High Point, NC 65 62 101
52 Akron, OH 38 93 121
53 Toledo, OH 93 6 137
54 Salem, OR 75 24 157
54 Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 87 44 81
56 Syracuse, NY 98 22 93
57 Tulsa, OK 60 63 126
58 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 26 131 96
58 Raleigh, NC 23 139 89
60 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 12 177 47
61 Anchorage, AK 114 10 78
62 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 11 195 23
63 Savannah, GA 96 64 33
64 Reno, NV 98 78 7
65 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 16 181 53
66 Cedar Rapids, IA 84 32 148
67 New Haven-Milford, CT 73 71 110
68 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 31 168 43
69 Ann Arbor, MI 31 172 39
70 Charleston, WV 94 7 187
71 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 55 94 131
72 Springfield, MO 54 65 197
73 Roanoke, VA 85 46 144
73 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 59 127 60
75 Canton-Massillon, OH 98 5 189
76 Lubbock, TX 106 37 115
77 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 69 125 54
78 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 79 113 64
79 Albuquerque, NM 88 123 24
79 Barnstable Town, MA 45 119 161
81 Santa Rosa, CA 97 116 12
82 College Station-Bryan, TX 152 15 51
82 Oklahoma City, OK 35 153 126
84 Peoria, IL 131 28 94
85 Kansas City, MO-KS 57 130 114
86 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 64 161 32
86 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC 60 172 22
86 Richmond, VA 62 155 50
86 South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI 80 76 154
90 San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA 118 87 35
91 Lancaster, PA 67 143 89
92 Lexington-Fayette, KY 130 42 104
93 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 72 179 9
94 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 81 166 11
95 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 123 73 74
95 Columbia, SC 104 87 103
95 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 145 28 98
98 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 74 164 43
99 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 107 99 75
100 Provo-Orem, UT 46 183 92
101 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 86 106 131
102 Green Bay, WI 138 4 181
103 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 78 176 18
104 Prescott, AZ 177 16 42
105 Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 35 175 153
106 Salinas, CA 143 75 30
107 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 83 135 91
108 Amarillo, TX 123 50 143
109 Springfield, MA 118 50 159
110 Wichita, KS 140 33 134
111 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 76 168 57
112 Mobile, AL 90 82 191
113 Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 53 165 140
114 Huntsville, AL 127 39 172
114 Lansing-East Lansing, MI 52 170 135
116 Knoxville, TN 88 102 178
117 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 132 91 69
118 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 162 38 100
119 Shreveport-Bossier City, LA 134 103 58
120 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 90 141 115
120 Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 155 24 154
122 Macon, GA 114 84 158
123 Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL 102 106 151
124 Corpus Christi, TX 179 23 87
125 Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL 157 14 174
125 Fort Wayne, IN 167 12 148
127 Columbus, OH 141 82 88
128 Tallahassee, FL 188 34 46
128 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 126 53 194
130 Bremerton-Silverdale, WA 120 135 55
131 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 122 97 138
132 Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 136 48 195
133 Olympia-Tumwater, WA 158 58 112
133 Topeka, KS 147 74 113
135 Jacksonville, FL 112 144 79
135 Manchester-Nashua, NH 98 108 193
137 Dayton, OH 174 24 139
138 Reading, PA 102 141 123
139 Sacramento—Roseville—Arden-Arcade, CA 104 185 31
140 El Paso, TX 133 119 77
140 Erie, PA 163 55 115
142 Evansville, IN-KY 187 18 124
143 Lafayette, LA 151 87 98
144 Baton Rouge, LA 139 119 73
145 Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 110 182 38
146 Boise City, ID 109 112 192
147 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 81 179 144
148 Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 170 20 198
149 Norwich-New London, CT 185 28 140
150 Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ 163 117 36
151 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 110 193 56
152 Fort Smith, AR-OK 154 60 200
153 Waco, TX 182 59 121
154 Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 116 157 124
155 Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 181 69 107
155 Tuscaloosa, AL 178 44 166
157 Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO 159 67 184
158 Jackson, MS 135 99 198
159 Port St. Lucie, FL 95 170 179
160 Greeley, CO 127 158 109
161 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 144 115 161
162 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 113 150 186
163 Modesto, CA 196 71 96
164 Winston-Salem, NC 120 174 120
165 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 141 194 21
166 Chattanooga, TN-GA 165 101 142
167 Fayetteville, NC 189 67 151
168 Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 176 105 118
169 Columbus, GA-AL 137 148 161
170 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 125 167 160
171 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 127 160 170
172 Montgomery, AL 175 111 129
173 York-Hanover, PA 168 98 183
174 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 186 131 66
175 Fresno, CA 161 163 81
176 Worcester, MA-CT 148 133 188
177 Stockton-Lodi, CA 146 192 84
178 Chico, CA 197 129 62
179 Ocala, FL 149 146 182
180 Kennewick-Richland, WA 152 183 106
181 Scranton—Wilkes-Barre—Hazleton, PA 159 139 176
182 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 156 148 169
183 Utica-Rome, NY 197 87 196
183 Yakima, WA 179 144 136
185 Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 149 178 174
185 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 173 200 58
187 Clarksville, TN-KY 197 124 171
188 Flint, MI 193 125 185
189 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 172 196 126
190 Killeen-Temple, TX 166 188 168
191 Salisbury, MD-DE 191 152 167
192 Bakersfield, CA 195 186 110
193 Visalia-Porterville, CA 182 199 131
194 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 168 198 177
195 Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 192 162 180
196 Laredo, TX 197 189 119
197 Merced, CA 184 190 161
198 Ogden-Clearfield, UT 189 187 156
198 Spartanburg, SC 171 197 190
200 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 194 191 150

Top (and Bottom) Five Cities for:

Music preferences can be a polarizing subject. With that in mind, we looked at 15 different data points to try to get into the heads of every music fan. Here is a detailed look at four of those data points.

If there's one group of people that know about music fandom, it's the musicians themselves. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a tool, we looked at the number of employed musicians and singers per 1,000 jobs. Eugene, Ore., was the top of this data point.

Discovering new songs and artists is an exciting experience for all music fans. Radio has helped cultivate the music scene for years, and access to a wide variety of stations is important for a city. New York and Los Angeles dominate in sheer number with 428 radio stations between them. The list looks a lot different, though, when a city’s population is taken into account. 

The next great album has to be recorded somewhere. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1,693 sound recording studios in the country. Los Angeles (second in this data point when a city’s population is taken into account) has 366 of them.

Some musicians are gifted with natural-born talent. Others go to school to hone their craft. Using the U.S. Census Bureau, we looked at the percentage of visual and performing arts degree holders in each city. This might not lead to more musicians in a city, but likely to produce a population with an appreciation for a quality music scene. 

Data Takeaways

Musicians, professional or aspiring, buy records too. How people consume music has changed—60 of the 200 cities in our study don't have a single tape, CD or record store—but musicians still need places to stock up on equipment or add onto their archives.

The laws of supply and demand also apply to the sing-song industry. Based on this data, a city with fewer working musicians is likely to pay them a higher hourly wage.

Methodology

To determine the best cities for music fans, we used 15 data points from 14 reputable sources and broke them into three categories detailed below. Not all categories were created equal as we thought bands and musicians and where they play were more important than city-specific data points that go hand in hand with consuming music. For numbers 9 and 14 (below), we aggregated multiple sources to produce the data point. If a city appeared on one of these "best of" lists, they were given a single point and then totaled to come up with our rankings. Below, we break down each statistic and point to its origin. In parenthesis is the category's and stat’s weighting (a higher number represents a higher weight).

The Band (3)

1. Musicians, Singers per 1,000 People Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015)
2. Hourly Median Wage for Musicians, Singers
3. Musical Groups, Artists per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
4. Sound Recording Studios per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
5. Record Labels Songwriter Universe (2015)

The Crowd (2)

6. Radio Stations per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
7. Musical Instrument, Supply Stores per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
8. Bars per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
9. Top Venues Complex (2013)
Travel & Leisure (2016
USA Today (2015)
Fuse (2016)
Fodors (2016)
10. Tape, CD and Record Stores per 1,000 People U.S. Census Bureau (2011)

The Intangibles (1)

11. Average Annual Days with Precipitation Department of Commerce (2014)
12. Bars' Average Closing Time Thrillist (2015)
13. Percentage of Population with Visual, Performing Arts Degrees U.S. Census Bureau (2014)
14. Top Music Schools Music School Central (2014)
Music School Central (2014)
The Hollywood Reporter (2015)
The Best Schools (2016)
15. Percentage of Population Using Public Transportation to Commute U.S. Census Bureau (2014)

Experts' Take

← Mella Barnes is a session singer, songwriter and producer in Nashville, Tenn.

1. How people consume music has changed rapidly in the last 10 years. How has music fandom changed along with it? 
Music fandom has changed because today it's more about the "discovery" of music. People love to say to their friends, "Hey, I found this new artist!" Now, whether or not they financially support said artist or just download their material is another story. But I think the concept of '"finding" a new artist is very important in today's streaming culture. 

2. How important is local radio in creating a following for a band? 
Local radio around Nashville is a decent option—I haven't really been here long enough to know how many new artists they accept—but I would also recommend that any artist explode their social media. The thing about local radio is, if people aren't listening right then during that song, they won't know about you. If they are browsing the Internet, they could come across your music at any time. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would put radio at maybe a 5 in terms of importance.

3. What aspects of music venues make them fun or exciting to play? 
I don't play live since I'm a session singer, but I've played out a few times in Detroit where I'm originally from and what always made them fun was the atmosphere they created. Venues start to get a reputation for being one way or another—loud, boring, rowdy—and the audience tends to follow suit with whatever they've heard about it. Venues can control their image to a certain extent, so making it a place of creativity, fun and respect is what's best for the artists.

4. Who are some of the best, under-the-radar live bands playing currently?
I just saw a band called Lavender Country in Inglewood. They're a little difficult to track down online but worth it to do the search. Also, if you want to see amazing, talented musicians, walk down the street! There is an artist on every corner on Broadway Street downtown, and I've yet to hear a bad one. You would think there would be a lot of competition but everyone seems supportive of one another.

← Eric Gilbert is the co-founder of Treefort Music Fest and Duck Club Presents in Boise, Id.

1. How people consume music has changed rapidly in the last 10 years. How has music fandom changed along with it? 
It seems to me that there's less of a concentration of fandom. Thanks to technology, people listen to a much larger catalog of music and tastes are less concentrated on certain artists or certain genres. With touring becoming more common than ever for bands of all sizes, consumers have been benefitting from a growing pool of concert options.  

2. How important is local radio in creating a following for a band? 
In April of 2011, the Treasure Valley's first independent free format non-commercial radio station since the mid-1980s hit the FM airwaves when Radio Boise KRBX 89.9 FM was born. The relationship to radio and a band’s following has definitely shifted over the years, but Radio Boise going on air had a profound effect on the local music scene. For the first time in decades, local, regional and national "indie" artists of all genres started getting regular airtime. This felt like a big shift for someone on the ground floor of that scene. Over night, aspiring local bands suddenly had a platform by which their music could be featured and it inspired a rejuvenated wave of activity. It provided a focal point for the community. 

3. What aspects of music venues make them fun exciting to play? 
I like venues that provide intimacy with an artist and those in attendance. I love the feel of smaller shows and the energy created when a room is packed and audience is almost spilling on top of the band. Thus, I prefer stages that aren't too high and rooms that aren't too big. Venues with good sound and lights, ability to mix in fog and haze, also makes for fertile soil for an exciting show to happen.

4. Who are some of the best, under-the-radar live bands playing currently?
Here are some of my favorite shows I've seen in Boise over the last couple years: Jonathan Richman, Whitney, Budos Band, Built To Spill, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, Thick Business, Yonatan Gat, Ancient Psychic, Tortoise, Diarrhea Planet, Music Band, Shabazz Palaces, Polica, Rubblebucket, Delicate Steve, Magic Sword, Wild Ones, k.flay, mr. Gnome, Holiday Friends, Lucy Dacus, Cy Dune, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Beach Slang, Love As Laughter, Disco Doom, Here We Go Magic, The Thermals, Quiet Life, AU, Like A Villain, Dustin Wong, Paper Gates, Deerhoof, Chanti Darling, The Suffers, Dan Deacon, Clarke and the Himselfs, Sly Moon Sutra, Hollow Wood, Leafraker, Downtown Boys, Screaming Females, Baby in Vain, Wimps, Dark Swallows, Nobunny, Cool Ghouls, The Shivas, Thee Oh Sees, Beat Connection... to name a few.

Stay tuned as we poll experts in the field about what makes a city great for music fans. Have a tip? Drop us a line @VP_Careers.

Comments and Questions