The Best Cities for Musicians and Careers in Music

performer standing on a stage with a crowd
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Location, location, location is a mantra in the real estate business, but does where you live matter to your music career? Yes and no. The answer depends on what you're trying to accomplish in music and what resources you have.

It's Not Just Nashville

First, there is definitely such a thing as a "music city," and it's not just Nashville. There are some cities that are closely associated with some aspect of the music industry, some places are associated with a certain sound or type of music and some cities are music industry "centers" in that they have an abundance of music-related businesses. There are benefits to being in one of these places, and in some cases moving to a city with a thriving music industry is a must.

Consider the following:

  • For musicians, if your musical inspiration is rooted in a certain location, then being in that place can be helpful creatively. Some places are known for a certain sound or are significant in the history of a certain genre of music—think of Nashville, Glasgow, Seattle, South Bronx, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans, to name just a few. Not all musicians (or all styles of music) have a "mecca" city, but if yours does, moving there might be creatively inspiring, and you are more likely to meet up with like-minded musicians and find fans.
  • If you want to work on the business side of the music industry—and you don't want to start your own business◊then living someplace where there are music companies is a must. You don't necessarily have to move to a booming music capital, but if there aren't ANY music related businesses where you live, where will you work?

Before You Pack Your Bags

Moving to a music city can be a good thing, but before you hit the road, be aware that there are some downsides:

  • You'll be a very small fish in a very big pond. For musicians, that can make getting noticed that much harder—think of London as a good example. Sure, there are tons of places to play and a bustling music scene, but that also means there is an overwhelming amount of competition.
  • Likewise, if you're trying to get a music-related job, competition will be fierce.
  • Music industry jobs aren't always very well-paid, and the cost of living in many (in fact, most) music industry centers is quite high.

What's the Alternative?

OK, so then what are the alternatives? If you live far away from a city with a thriving music scene, then you'll need to create your own. For musicians, this means reaching out to other musicians in your area and working together to put on shows, trade contacts, and more. If you'd like to work on the business side of things, this means starting your own business and working with the musicians in town to develop opportunities together.

You'll also need to take full advantage of the social networking opportunities to reach out to other people working in the music industry and develop relationships online that you might develop in person if you lived in a music industry center.

The bottom line is that many people with music careers do not live in music centers, and moving to one isn't a must. But you do need to work hard at developing your own opportunities and use the internet and social media to make business connections that aren't in your backyard.​