*Everyone loves a city with a great music scene. Going to concerts and shows and listening to live music always makes for a good time. It benefits the cultural landscape of a city, bringing energy and fun to the nightlife and giving residents and visitors alike chances to go out, discover new talent and support both emerging and established artists. But in order to have a noteworthy music scene, a city must be a good place for musicians to live and work.
Just like with an orchestra, all the different parts need to come together in harmony for a city to be a good place for a musician to live. There needs to be an abundance of music-related businesses. This not only means plenty of performance venues like concert halls, theaters, bars and clubs, but also music-oriented stores for instrument repair, tech and other performance necessities.
Since being a musician is also sometimes a volatile profession, a city also needs to be affordable, with reasonable rental rates. Luckily, there are plenty of renowned music cities across America that fit the bill. Here are the best cities for musicians to live in America.
The best cities for musicians
Cue the lights and talent to the stage. Without further ado, these are the top 10 cities in America for musicians to live and work. Enjoy the show!
10. Glendale, CA
The Los Angeles metropolitan area has always had a legendary reputation for the arts. Everyone from aspiring actors to artists move here to try and make it big. The same is true for musicians. And if you’re looking for a good home base from which to jumpstart your music career, the city of Glendale in Los Angeles County is a great choice.
Firstly, there are a wide variety of different music venues to choose from. Popular dive bars like Dave’s on Broadway offer casual, intimate venues where you can better connect with the audience and start to establish yourself in the local scene. But there are also bigger venues with loyal clientele and historic reputations like the Alex Theater. Originally used for vaudeville performances and silent films, this famous Art Deco theater is now the home of several classical music organizations, including Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. But other musical acts can also perform here, as well.
Glendale also has several independent, locally-owned music stores like Charles Music Store & Studios and Larry Larson Music where musicians can purchase instruments, go for repairs or seek lessons. If you’re looking to master a new instrument, you can also go for lessons at the popular Sonata Music School or the International School of Music.
Living in Glendale close to central L.A. can give you the connections and performance opportunities you need to kick off your career. But it’s also an expensive area to live in. One-bedroom apartments in Glendale cost an average of $3,305 a month.
9. Boston, MA
It’s time to rock and roll. Massachusetts’ capital city boasts of one of the best live music scenes on the East Coast, especially for rock, jazz and classical music. Boston is home to two world-renowned classical music groups, the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And obviously, rock is huge here. Some of the biggest rock and punk bands ever came out of Boston, including Boston, Aerosmith, The Cars and the Dropkick Murphys. But it’s not all rock and classical music. Every kind of music has a home here, from hip hop to house. So, no matter what kind of music you play, you’ll find an audience that’s ready to listen.
As a city with a great music scene, there are tons of music venues to play. The Middle East, The Sinclair, Paradise Rock Club and Midway Cafe are all popular local venues for rock, punk, alternative, indie and other genres. If you’re a jazz musician, playing Sculler’s Jazz Club or The Beehive is a must. For hip-hop, get booked at Good Life, Venu or Lucky’s Lounge. And if you’re a classical musician, to play the stage at Symphony Hall is a dream come true.
With so many venues to choose from, it’s not hard to make a career as a musician in Boston and find gigs for work. But all that access does come at a price. Boston is an expensive city, with a one-bedroom apartment costing an average of $3,805.
7. Los Angeles, CA (tie)
If you’re an aspiring musician or are looking to take your music career to the next level, Los Angeles is one of the best cities to live in. Not only is the city home to some of the best venues in the business, but it’s also one of the seats of the recorded music industry. Legendary labels like Capitol Records and recording studios like the Paramount Recording Studio have seen many of the greatest musicians of all time walk their halls. And who can come to L.A. and not check out Capitol Records’ tower building, which is a landmark of the L.A. architectural landscape? So, whether you’re looking to make a record at a famous recording studio or start making connections by playing the best venues, L.A. is the place for you.
If you want to play a renowned theater or venue that’s seen countless famous acts before, L.A. has them in spades. There’s the edgy Troubadour, where rock and roll reigns and stars like Elton John have watched their careers take off. The Hotel Cafe, The Wiltern, The Roxy, Whisky A Go Go and El Rey are also some of the best spots to play, where emerging acts have cut their teeth. But if you can’t book one of these spots yet, start playing the bar and nightclub circuit, make connections and watch the opportunities roll in.
Living in L.A. may give you the edge you need to get noticed by the right people. But it doesn’t come cheap. Renting a one-bedroom in L.A. costs an average of $3,276.
7. Pittsburgh, PA (tie)
Pittsburgh ties with L.A. for the seventh spot for the best cities for musicians. The City of Bridges is known for having an eclectic music scene that encompasses a wide range of genres from jazz and blues to rock and pop. Jazz in particular has a rich history here. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, many jazz legends played here, inspiring local talents like Ahmad Jamal and Billy Eckstine. That reputation holds true today, with many great clubs and venues like Con Alma, MCG Jazz and Muddy Waters Oyster Bar.
If you’re an aspiring rapper, Pittsburgh has also emerged as a great city to hone your craft and build an audience. Many big-name rappers like Wiz Khalifa, Chevy Woods and the late Mac Miller hail from Pittsburgh. Spots like Howl at the Moon, Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall and Cattivo are all great places to hear rap and hip hop. And no matter what kind of music you play, popular local venues like Stage AE and Mr. Smalls cater to nearly all genres.
Pittsburgh is also attractive for up-and-coming musicians thanks to its affordability. The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment here is $1,551.
6. Atlanta, GA
Rappers and hip-hop artists, take note. Atlanta is one of the best cities for rap, hip-hop, crunk and R&B, if not the best. Some of the biggest names in the genre either got their start here or were born and raised here, including Usher, Ludacris, Lil Nas X, T.I., OutKast, Toni Braxton and Ciara.
So, if you’re looking for a city that loves rap and hip-hop and will come out in droves to support local artists, Atlanta is the answer. Venues like MJQ Concourse, Union EAV, The Basement and Apache are all mainstays of the rap and hip hop scenes. Several of these spots, like Apache, also offer open-mic nights, giving you a chance to show what you got and make connections.
Atlanta also has popular scenes for indie rock, pop, blues, country and gospel. So, no matter what genre of music you play, there’s an audience here at spots like The Loft, Terminal West, Tabernacle, The EARL and Variety Playhouse. As a major center for music in the region, you’ll also find many recording studios located here, including Patchwork Recording Studios, 11th Street Recording and Loud House Studios. Offering recording at a range of prices, you can record your tracks on whatever budget works for you.
With one-bedroom apartments renting for an average of $1,614 a month, Atlanta is also an affordable place to live and work as a musician.
5. New York, NY
Naturally, New York ranks as one of the best cities for musicians. The music scene here is about as diverse as it gets, encompassing pretty much every genre imaginable. No matter what kind of music you play, there’s either a pre-existing audience or interested listeners eager to discover the next big sound or band. And here, the more experimental or underground, the better.
To list all the great venues and places to play and experience music in N.Y.C. is truly a gargantuan task. Every neighborhood and borough is overflowing with clubs, bars, theaters and other performance venues. You can play at restaurants and bars like The Bitter End, Cafe Wha? or Arlene’s Grocery.
There are also intimate concert venues like the Bowery Ballroom or the Village Underground. And maybe someday, you’ll play big stages like the legendary Madison Square Garden or iconic music festivals like the Governor’s Ball. Honestly, if you can make it as a musician here, you can make it anywhere.
But there is a downside to living here as a musician. It’s extremely expensive. New York has the highest rent of all the cities in the top 10. A one-bedroom apartment here costs an average of $4,273 a month. It will take a lot of well-paying gigs to afford rent that high.
4. Seattle, WA
Everyone knows of Seattle‘s legendary grunge, punk and alternative rock scene that exploded in the ’90s. Some of the biggest names in those genres formed in Seattle, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Foo Fighters. While it’s no longer the heyday of grunge in Seattle, the city still has a thriving music scene that’s expanded outside alternative rock to include other genres like hip hop.
As one of the biggest cities for music on the West Coast, Seattle has tons of venue options for either small, intimate shows or blow-the-roof-off larger concerts. Some of the most iconic live music venues include the Moore Theater, The Paramount, The Crocodile and Neptune Theater. All of the above venues are great for rock and a mix of other genres. For Seattle’s best hip-hop clubs, get yourself up on the stage at Neumos or Nectar Lounge. Seattle also has many great live music festivals that feature local and national talents like Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party.
Seattle is one of the best cities for edgy, alternative music. But it’s also a pricey place to live. One-bedroom apartments here cost an average of $2,465.
Whether you play rock, hip hop, alternative, country or another genre, Minneapolis has a stage for you. Forming half of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis has an epic music scene and has been a career springboard for such famous artists as Bob Dylan, Atmosphere, The Replacements, Brother Ali and many more. But arguably, Minneapolis’ most famous musical son is rock legend Prince.
While major stars and touring acts always stop here for shows, Minneapolis especially loves to come out and support local artists. This makes Minneapolis a dream city for independent artists to develop fan bases and launch careers.
As a music-loving city, there’s no shortage of great venues to play. First Avenue, Dakota, The Cabooze, Fine Line and Icehouse are among some of the most beloved local concert venues. And many bars, restaurants and clubs also offer live music nights. Minneapolis also has several great music festivals that showcase local and non-local talent, like the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Rock the Garden and the Basilica Block Party.
Another reason Minneapolis is an attractive choice for musicians is that it’s one of the most affordable cities in the top 10 best cities for musicians. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment here costs an average of $1,455.
When you hear Washington, D.C., your first thought is probably of politics, history or its distinctive architecture. But our nation’s capital is also home to a not-to-be-missed music scene. From jazz and blues to bluegrass and go-go, a subgenre of funk that originated in D.C., this city grooves so hard that it snagged the No. 2 spot for the best cities for musicians. D.C. is especially celebrated for the diversity and multiculturalism of its music scene, showing how important human and political issues can be expressed and shared through the common medium of music.
Musicians living here benefit from a crowd that loves to party and an abundance of fun music venues. The 9:30 Club, Pearl Street Warehouse, Union Stage and Black Cat are among the most popular spots for live music around town. If you’re an indie rock or alternative artist, playing Black Cat is a must. Why? One of the owners is none other than Dave Grohl of Nirvana and The Foo Fighters. D.C. also has great music festivals to play, like the DC Jazz Festival, M3 Rock Festival, Down in the Reeds and the DC Funk Parade.
To take part in such a vibrant music scene, be prepared to shell out a fair amount of cash for rent. One-bedroom apartments in the District of Columbia cost an average of $2,431.
Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix. The Grateful Dead. Jefferson Airplane. The counterculture rock music of the 1960s and 1970s created the “San Francisco sound.” So many greats from this era cut their teeth and got their chops performing around the City by the Bay. From rock and punk to jazz, San Francisco’s music scene has been among the best in the country since the ’60s. That continues to this day, with San Francisco topping the charts to be the best city for musicians in America.
Obviously, as a city, San Francisco offers a lot to inspire musicians. From its iconic architecture to the scenic views of the bay, the city’s history, culture and atmosphere are sure to generate plenty of ideas for songs. Just walking around San Francisco will bring you face-to-face with famous spots from S.F. musical history, especially in the Haight district where many musicians lived.
Then it’s time to take your music to the stage at legendary venues like The Fillmore, The Chapel, The Saloon, The Bottom of the Hill and The Independent. Plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs offer live music nights, as well. San Francisco is also home to popular music festivals like Outside Lands and the San Francisco Jazz Festival. If you want to make music in a place where many other great musicians also played, San Francisco is a musician’s dream.
The high cost of living in San Francisco may be an impediment to some musicians who want to live and work here. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment is $3,557, making San Francisco one of the most expensive cities in our top 10 list of the best cities for musicians. But to live and make music in one of America’s most celebrated cities for the arts may be well worth the cost.
The 50 best cities for musicians
The top 10 best cities for musicians can take a bow. Now it’s time for the encore. There are tons of other cities across America that offer plenty of opportunities for musicians to practice their craft.
Here are the top 50 cities for musicians to live in America.
Here are the top 50 cities for musicians to live in America.
|Rank||City||Population||Music Businesses Per Density||Proportion of Music-Related Occupations|
|1||San Francisco, CA||881,549||2.77||4.92%|
|5||New York, NY||8,336,817||0.57||4.50%|
|7||Los Angeles, CA||3,979,576||0.40||6.26%|
|14||Long Beach, CA||462,628||0.48||2.82%|
|16||Fort Lauderdale, FL||182,437||0.80||2.63%|
|18||Saint Louis, MO||300,576||0.66||2.56%|
|21||New Orleans, LA||390,144||0.38||2.77%|
|24||Saint Paul, MN||308,096||0.31||2.79%|
|30||Grand Rapids, MI||201,013||0.30||2.61%|
|32||San Diego, CA||1,423,851||0.21||2.64%|
|33||Las Vegas, NV||651,319||1.04||1.77%|
|35||Salt Lake City, UT||200,567||0.15||3.00%|
|40||Saint Petersburg, FL||265,351||0.24||2.00%|
|41||Huntington Beach, CA||199,223||0.15||2.50%|
The worst cities for musicians
These cities just don’t have enough music in their souls to support thriving music scenes. Here are the worst cities for musicians. You could even say these cities fell flat.
|Rank||City||Population||Music Businesses Per Density||Proportion of Music-Related Occupations|
|1||Moreno Valley, CA||213,055||0.02||0.88%|
|5||Port Saint Lucie, FL||201,846||0.03||1.11%|
|7||San Bernardino, CA||215,784||0.05||0.78%|
|8||North Las Vegas, NV||251,974||0.02||1.24%|
To find the best cities for musicians, we looked at the 150 most populated cities in America with sufficient data according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Our team then looked at the total number of musician-related business establishments (including but not limited to concert venues, nightclubs, music stores and music schools) and ranked each city evenly by the number of businesses per square mile of land area and the percentage of all adults in the city who work in the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media occupations as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. The cities with the best overall rankings were determined to be the best cities in America for musicians.
Total establishment counts are from a database of 8 million commercially available business listings. These listings may not reflect recent openings or closings.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of August 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.