North Carolinians love music. I mean personally, it consumes my life. The joy of music is contagious. Through it, a moment of sadness can be transformed into pure bliss. In our homes, cars, even in our communities, we hear it. Local sounds are the heartbeat of any city. But which city tops the charts?

A new study published by List with Clever analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indie on the Move, and more to rank the 50 most populous metro areas in the U.S. from the best to the worst cities for music.

The study found that the overall best city for music is the one and only Nashville, Tennesse. It is the music capital of the U.S., ranking Number one for the number of both full-time musicians per 100,000 residents (127) and intimate concert spaces per capita (6.7). Luckily, we don’t live too far from it being in North Carolina.

The live music capital of the U.S. is the city of Austin, Texas. They are the only city with an average of five concert venues per capita in addition to nine music festivals planned for 2022. That is almost 2x more than the average U.S. city! North Carolina had two cities make the list. Scroll down below to see the top 15 cities for music in America. You can see the full study here.

  • 15. Cincinnati, Ohio

    The hits are playing in Ohio! Cincinnati’s Queen City reigns for musician pay and the number of full-time musicians: The Queen City has more musicians per capita (32) than 72% of other cities while ranking No. 2 for musician pay ($29.80/hour). In addition to making tons of money, full-time musicians here also make more than their non-musician neighbors! Musicians and singers in Cincinnati make 1.6 times ($47.53/hour) as much as all local residents ($29.80/hour). You’re in luck if you’re a local hoping to catch a show! The average ticket price for Cincinnati shows ($110) is cheaper than 78% of the metro areas we analyzed and 13% cheaper than the national average ($126).

  • 14. Hartford, Connecticut

    Hartford, the birthplace of folk singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey, boasts more musicians per capita (64) than 98% of cities in our study – more than double what we find nationally (28). Connecticut is full of amazing local talent! Hartford, ranked second among metros in our study for working musicians, is another suitable place for artists to live. On average, musicians here earn $35.65 an hour, which is more than full-time artists make in 74% of other metros. Hartford musicians have an advantage over the national average (2.9), as there are 31% more small concert venues per capita (3.8).

  • 13. Columbus, Ohio

    Ready for some pop music? Columbus ranks number 1 for pop music, number three for rock, and number 5 for jazz according to the Google Trends analysis. Columbus is among the top 15 music cities thanks to the high demand for burgeoning pop hits, which has clearly fueled a love for live performances. Columbus has more festivals scheduled for 2022 (7) than 64% of the cities we studied. It is the hometown of the country-pop band Rascal Flatts. Moreover, with more career musicians per capita (25) than 50% of the metro areas we looked at, this city is a great place for aspiring pop stars to network and perform.

  • 12. Charlotte, North Carolina

    Our home city of Charlotte is the metro musician city! Charlotte ranks third for median musician wage, and local artists make a higher hourly wage ($44.74) than artists in 90% of the other metros in our study. Compared to other professions in Charlotte, musicians here are doing extremely well. Charlotte’s median hourly wage for full-time artists is 1.57 times ($44.34/hour) that of all Charlotte residents ($28.34/hour). Besides musicians being able to earn a decent living in Charlotte, locals can also catch their favorite bands at a price ($112 per ticket) that is lower than the average ticket price in 72% of other cities.

  • 11. Boston, Massachusetts

    As well as being the number one place for electronic music, the City of Champions is number two for classical and holiday music. I really enjoy electronic music! This metropolis not only produced iconic acts like Pixies and The Cars, but Boston musicians can also boast higher hourly wages ($31.59) than musicians in 66% of the cities in our study, making it a great destination for artists and fans alike. Based on a lower ticket price-to-income ratio (1.8% in Boston) than 94% of other metro areas, Bostonians can catch monthly shows at an average annual cost of $1,512, compared to an average price of $1,613 or 2.5% across all 50 cities – that’s a 28% savings!

  • 10. Buffalo, New York

    Our Google Trends analysis shows that Buffalo ranks #1 for alternative music and provides more intimate concert venues per capita (4.6) in comparison to 88% of the metros we studied. Buffalo locals have access to tons of local venues for a fraction of the cost of tickets in many other cities – our average ticket price ($119) is cheaper than tickets in 38% of our metro areas. In addition, Buffalo has a staggering 45 musicians per capita, which is more than 90% of the rest of the United States.

  • 9. Seattle, Washington

    My heart belongs to punk. With our Google Trends analysis, Emerald City ranks number one for punk, number three for electronic music, and number five for folk. This metro ranks third for working musicians thanks to groups such as Tina Bell’s Bam Bam, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. In Seattle, there are 53 musicians per capita, more than 89% more than the typical metropolitan area (28). The average musician in 90% of other cities studied also makes more than local career musicians do. Additionally, a monthly concert ticket at Seattle’s average price ($126) would consume 1.9% of the average annual salary here. A person’s budget in Seattle is 23 percent less than in all other cities!

  • 8. San Francisco, California

    The Bay Area ranks first for concert ticket price as a percentage of income (1.4%). A concert in San Francisco consumes 45% less of your budget than in the average metro area (2.5%). Not only are shows relatively affordable compared to income in San Francisco, but there’s also a significant financial opportunity for artists in the metropolis that gave us Santana, the jazz-fusion powerhouse. Musicians working full-time in San Francisco earn more than their counterparts in 94% of our other cities ($48.84 an hour). With more intimate performance spaces than 66% of the cities in our study (2.9 per capita), SF is one of few cities that can boast a music scene that supports both its audience and its musicians.

  • 7. St. Louis, Missouri

    As a result of our Google Trends analysis, St. Louis ranks number one for blues music and number four for folk music. This establishes the city as a vibrant center for music with an American voice. Due in part to the late blues patriarch Bennie Smith, who helped pioneer the distinctive sound of the genre, St. Louis has a thriving blues scene. Additionally, St. Louis residents save 17% on concert tickets, spending only $104 per ticket versus $126 in the average metro area. A full-time musician might also find fame in the Gateway City: St. Louis musicians earn more ($37.53) per hour than their counterparts in 78% of our other metros.

  • 6. Salt Lake City, Utah

    According to the Google Trends analysis, Salt Lake City ranks first across all music genres. Salt Lake City residents enjoy everything from punk to show tunes! With a wide range of audiences, Salt Lake City is a great place for musicians. Our study found that SLC has 25 career musicians per capita – over 50% more than other metropolitan areas – as well as ticket prices ($122) that are cheaper than 52% of the other cities in our study.

  • 5. Raleigh, North Carolina

    In our study, Raleigh ranks No. 2 in small concert venues per 100,000 residents with 5.9 venues per capita more than twice as many as the average city (2.9). From the Pour House to the Lincoln Theatre, North Carolina’s capital is filled with venues where you can catch your favorite solo act, indie band, bluegrass duo, or punk lineup. Raleigh offers cheaper tickets ($104) than 86% of metros in our study and 17% less than the average city ($126).

  • 4. Austin, Texas

    With an average of five small concert venues per capita and nine festivals planned for 2022, Austin is America’s No. 1 live music metro. Austin has more intimate venues per capita (5.2) than 92% of other metros we analyzed, even though it is tied with Portland for the number of festivals planned for 2022. Austin, known for music events such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest (SXSW), also beats other metros based on price: Average tickets in Austin ($111) are cheaper than 76% of the cities in our study.

  • 3. Portland, Oregon

    Live music attendees in Portland spend only 2% of their annual income on live music, which is 18% less than in the average city (2.5%). Musicians such as Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, and Blitzen Trapper hail from the City of Roses, a muse for musical minds. Music lovers in Portland can expect nine festivals in 2022 – 67% more than the average metro area. Further, Portland has more career musicians per capita (38) than 88% of the metros we studied.

  • 2. Indianapolis, Indiana

    Indianapolis concert tickets ($99) are on average cheaper than those in 94% of the cities in our study. Putting on one concert a month would cost the average local only 1.9% of their income (or $1,188). Indianapolis is the state capital of Michael Jackson’s home state. Indianapolis is home to the fourth most small concert venues per capita (5.3), making it a great place to catch a show for a reasonable price. Additionally, full-time musicians in Indianapolis make more hourly ($31.40) than artists in 40% of the cities in our study, and the metro ranks No. 5 in Google Trends for both alternative music and blues.

  • 1. Nashville, Tennessee

    Nashville may be synonymous with country music, but it’s not the only thing that makes Music City the music capital of the United States. Nashville ranks No. 2 across every genre of our Google Trends research – and No. 1 for heavy metal in addition to country. As if ranking first for the number of small concert venues per capita (6.7) wasn’t enough, career musicians in Nashville also earn more — hourly $28.81, higher than 30% of the cities in our study. With so many venues and artists and ticket prices ($130) that beat out 32% of other metros, Nashville is THE city for music in the U.S.

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