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

AreaThe BandThe CrowdThe Intangibles

1

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN13662

2

Urban Honolulu, HI214616

3

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA95648

4

Madison, WI401934

5

Austin-Round Rock, TX176514

6

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY421345

7

Tucson, AZ29536

8

Rochester, NY331084

9

Pittsburgh, PA253176

10

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA41092

11

Salt Lake City, UT244870

12

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI275748

13

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA138640

14

Eugene, OR147952

15

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA51183

16

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI159426

17

Asheville, NC408129

18

Burlington-South Burlington, VT65367

19

Boulder, CO71224

20

Binghamton, NY3321147

21

Wilmington, NC296186

22

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA4435102

23

Fort Collins, CO623941

24

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL377064

25

Duluth, MN-WI702104

26

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA315010

27

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA21591

28

Sioux Falls, SD77195

29

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI2012818

29

New Orleans-Metairie, LA498125

31

Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV61568

32

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD557728

33

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO2113813

34

Trenton, NJ1015429

35

Colorado Springs, CO685260

35

Lincoln, NE90980

37

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT813772

38

Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH1814727

39

Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN399667

40

Gainesville, FL1082714

41

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA571095

42

St. Louis, MO-IL7039107

43

Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY489271

44

Appleton, WI5043165

45

Champaign-Urbana, IL1171717

45

Lynchburg, VA518481

47

Charlottesville, VA4711436

48

Rockford, IL19103144

49

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV4313320

50

Portland-South Portland, ME2880173

51

Greensboro-High Point, NC6562101

52

Akron, OH3893121

53

Toledo, OH936137

54

Salem, OR7524157

54

Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA874481

56

Syracuse, NY982293

57

Tulsa, OK6063126

58

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN2613196

58

Raleigh, NC2313989

60

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL1217747

61

Anchorage, AK1141078

62

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1119523

63

Savannah, GA966433

64

Reno, NV98787

65

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL1618153

66

Cedar Rapids, IA8432148

67

New Haven-Milford, CT7371110

68

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA3116843

69

Ann Arbor, MI3117239

70

Charleston, WV947187

71

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT5594131

72

Springfield, MO5465197

73

Roanoke, VA8546144

73

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL5912760

75

Canton-Massillon, OH985189

76

Lubbock, TX10637115

77

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL6912554

78

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX7911364

79

Albuquerque, NM8812324

79

Barnstable Town, MA45119161

81

Santa Rosa, CA9711612

82

College Station-Bryan, TX1521551

82

Oklahoma City, OK35153126

84

Peoria, IL1312894

85

Kansas City, MO-KS57130114

86

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD6416132

86

Durham-Chapel Hill, NC6017222

86

Richmond, VA6215550

86

South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI8076154

90

San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA1188735

91

Lancaster, PA6714389

92

Lexington-Fayette, KY13042104

93

San Diego-Carlsbad, CA721799

94

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA8116611

95

Cleveland-Elyria, OH1237374

95

Columbia, SC10487103

95

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA1452898

98

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX7416443

99

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN1079975

100

Provo-Orem, UT4618392

101

Providence-Warwick, RI-MA86106131

102

Green Bay, WI1384181

103

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ7817618

104

Prescott, AZ1771642

105

Kalamazoo-Portage, MI35175153

106

Salinas, CA1437530

107

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC8313591

108

Amarillo, TX12350143

109

Springfield, MA11850159

110

Wichita, KS14033134

111

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC7616857

112

Mobile, AL9082191

113

Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC53165140

114

Huntsville, AL12739172

114

Lansing-East Lansing, MI52170135

116

Knoxville, TN88102178

117

Charleston-North Charleston, SC1329169

118

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ16238100

119

Shreveport-Bossier City, LA13410358

120

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL90141115

120

Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA15524154

122

Macon, GA11484158

123

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL102106151

124

Corpus Christi, TX1792387

125

Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL15714174

125

Fort Wayne, IN16712148

127

Columbus, OH1418288

128

Tallahassee, FL1883446

128

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA12653194

130

Bremerton-Silverdale, WA12013555

131

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI12297138

132

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA13648195

133

Olympia-Tumwater, WA15858112

133

Topeka, KS14774113

135

Jacksonville, FL11214479

135

Manchester-Nashua, NH98108193

137

Dayton, OH17424139

138

Reading, PA102141123

139

Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA10418531

140

El Paso, TX13311977

140

Erie, PA16355115

142

Evansville, IN-KY18718124

143

Lafayette, LA1518798

144

Baton Rouge, LA13911973

145

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL11018238

146

Boise City, ID109112192

147

Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI81179144

148

Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH17020198

149

Norwich-New London, CT18528140

150

Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ16311736

151

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX11019356

152

Fort Smith, AR-OK15460200

153

Waco, TX18259121

154

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL116157124

155

Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV18169107

155

Tuscaloosa, AL17844166

157

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO15967184

158

Jackson, MS13599198

159

Port St. Lucie, FL95170179

160

Greeley, CO127158109

161

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL144115161

162

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR113150186

163

Modesto, CA1967196

164

Winston-Salem, NC120174120

165

Vallejo-Fairfield, CA14119421

166

Chattanooga, TN-GA165101142

167

Fayetteville, NC18967151

168

Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS176105118

169

Columbus, GA-AL137148161

170

Birmingham-Hoover, AL125167160

171

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC127160170

172

Montgomery, AL175111129

173

York-Hanover, PA16898183

174

Memphis, TN-MS-AR18613166

175

Fresno, CA16116381

176

Worcester, MA-CT148133188

177

Stockton-Lodi, CA14619284

178

Chico, CA19712962

179

Ocala, FL149146182

180

Kennewick-Richland, WA152183106

181

Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA159139176

182

Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC156148169

183

Utica-Rome, NY19787196

183

Yakima, WA179144136

185

Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC149178174

185

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA17320058

187

Clarksville, TN-KY197124171

188

Flint, MI193125185

189

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL172196126

190

Killeen-Temple, TX166188168

191

Salisbury, MD-DE191152167

192

Bakersfield, CA195186110

193

Visalia-Porterville, CA182199131

194

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX168198177

195

Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX192162180

196

Laredo, TX197189119

197

Merced, CA184190161

198

Ogden-Clearfield, UT189187156

198

Spartanburg, SC171197190

200

Brownsville-Harlingen, TX194191150

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.

Musicians Best vs. Worst Cities

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.

Radio Stations Best vs. Worst Cities

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.

Record Studios Best vs. Worst Cities

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.

Music Degrees Best vs Worst Cities

Data Takeaways

Top 10 Graph Key

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.

Number of Musical Instruments/supply store per person

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.

Hourly Median Wages for Musicians and Singers

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

The Crowd (2)

6. Radio Stationsper 1,000 PeopleU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
7. Musical Instrument, Supply Storesper 1,000 PeopleU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
8. Barsper 1,000 PeopleU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
9. Top VenuesComplex (2013)
Travel & Leisure (2016
USA Today (2015)
Fuse (2016)
Fodors (2016)
  1. Tape, CD and Record Storesper 1,000 People
U.S. Census Bureau (2011)

The Intangibles (1)

11. Average Annual Days with PrecipitationDepartment of Commerce (2014)
12. Bars' Average Closing TimeThrillist (2015)
13. Percentage of Population with Visual, Performing Arts DegreesU.S. Census Bureau (2014)
14. Top Music SchoolsMusic School Central (2014)
Music School Central (2014)
The Hollywood Reporter (2015)
The Best Schools (2016)
15. Percentage of Population Using Public Transportation to CommuteU.S. Census Bureau (2014)

Experts' Take

Mella Barnes headshot
← 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 Gillbert headshot
← 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