Smartphones, streaming services, and smart home technology make it easy to listen to your favorite music wherever you are. All you need is a good sound system (or at least a pair of decent headphones) to enjoy your tunes at the office, in your car, on the train, or in bed before you go to sleep.
While this convenience is admittedly hard to beat, your smartphone still can’t give you the authentic experience of a live show. From the charming atmosphere of a dimly lit jazz lounge to the dull pounding you get in your ears after a particularly loud rock concert, there’s nothing like live music.
If you’re looking for a place with a fresh and exciting live music scene to explore, we recommend moving to one of the cities on this list.
Top 10 cities for people who love live music
#1. Austin, TX
- Metropolitan statistical area (MSA): Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX
- Population (2018): 2,168,316
- Live music venues: 1,007
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 46.4
Several musical giants—Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, and Beyonce, to name a few—have called Texas their home, so it’s no surprise that the state’s capital is at the top of our list. With over a thousand venues, a handful of legendary music festivals, and a diverse mix of local artists, Austin offers a vibrant music scene that few cities can match.
#2. San Diego, CA
- MSA: San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
- Population (2018): 3,343,364
- Live music venues: 1,438
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 43.0
Though San Diego has about 400 more venues than Austin, it also has roughly 1,000,000 more people and fewer venues per capita. However, just because San Diego is in second place doesn’t mean it’s scene is second rate. With iconic venues like the House of Blues and a year-round festival schedule, San Diego’s music culture is rich enough for any music lover to find a home.
#3. San Jose, CA
- MSA: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Population (2018): 1,999,107
- Live music venues: 818
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 40.9
You probably know San Jose as the capital of Silicon Valley, but what you may not know is that the city is brimming with live music venues. Along with Bay Area sister cities Oakland and San Francisco, San Jose is a hotbed of musical diversity and an excellent destination if you love live music (and can afford to live there).
#4. New Orleans, LA
- MSA: New Orleans-Metairie, LA
- Population (2018): 1,270,399
- Live music venues: 497
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 39.1
New Orleans is often considered the birthplace of jazz, and the city has been home to various jazz legends—including Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, and Fats Domino—throughout the years. In fact, Louis Armstrong Park serves as one of many venues where locals and tourists alike can gather to hear jazz as it was meant to be enjoyed: live.
#5. Las Vegas, NV
- MSA: Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
- Population (2018): 2,231,647
- Live music venues: 854
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 38.3
Most musicians that tour the US make the Las Vegas strip a priority stop. So if you want to be close to where popular music is always playing, a Las Vegas suburb is an ideal place to live. In addition to a wealth of music venues in casinos, restaurants, and concert halls, Vegas also hosts frequent showings of musical events like The Beatles LOVE and the Blue Man Group.
#6. San Francisco, CA
- MSA: San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA
- Population (2018): 4,729,484
- Live music venues: 1,730
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 36.6
San Francisco may not have the most concert halls per capita, but it does have some of the most beautiful bayside venues in the US. In addition to its unbeatable waterside locales, San Fran also has its share of ritzy concert halls, large stadiums, and intimate lounges. As a bonus, San Francisco’s public transportation system is often filled with local buskers who turn boring, everyday commutes into impromptu concerts.
#7. Portland, OR
- MSA: Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
- Population (2018): 2,478,810
- Live music venues: 844
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 34.0
If you want to hear the next big band “before they’re cool,” we recommend moving to Portland. The city’s abundance of record stores and music venues—plus its strong ties to indie superstars like Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, and the Decemberists—make it a hotbed for trendsetters in the underground music scene.
#8. Honolulu, HI
- MSA: Urban Honolulu, HI
- Population (2018): 980,080
- Live music venues: 327
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 33.4
As a popular tourist destination for people from around the globe, the city of Honolulu offers an eclectic music scene to accommodate the different tastes of its many visitors. You can find live music in almost any genre, from EDM concerts in beachside nightclubs to smooth jazz in classy cocktail bars—and everything in between.
#9. Raleigh, NC
- MSA: Raleigh-Cary, NC
- Population (2018): 1,362,540
- Live music venues: 388
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 28.5
While Raleigh is known for its bluegrass roots, the city is also home to a diverse community of musicians in almost every other genre. Raleigh leadership and nonprofits are staunch supporters of the city’s diverse music scene1, and this community support also makes Raleigh a viable option for amateur performers looking for somewhere to start their musical careers.
#10. Denver, CO
- MSA: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
- Population (2018): 2,932,415
- Live music venues: 796
- Music venues per 100,000 people: 27.1
Like Las Vegas, Denver is a popular stop for touring bands during their trips across the country, so it’s a great place to live if live music is important to you. Among Denver’s many music venues, the naturally beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheatre is its crown jewel. This iconic venue sits just 30 minutes outside of downtown Denver, and since many musicians consider it a career benchmark to play there, you can always find a Red Rocks show to attend.
We ranked our top cities for live music lovers based on live music venues per 100,000 residents. We gathered this information by searching Yelp for music venues in the 70 most populated US metro areas.2,3 Other criteria, like a city’s musical diversity, number of live shows per day, or musical history were not used as ranking factors.
Since our rankings are based on relative numbers of venues instead of actual numbers of venues, cities like New York and Los Angeles (which both have thousands of venues) are ranked lower than smaller cities because of their immense populations.
Ready to get moving?
If you’re sick of the music scene where you live and want to give one of the cities we’ve listed a try, check out our favorite moving companies to get the ball rolling on your next big move.
- Visit Raleigh, “Behind the Curtain of the Booming Raleigh, N.C., Music Scene”
- Yelp, “Yelp.com”
- United States Census Bureau, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018”
Full data set
|Ranking||Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)||2018 population estimate||Number of live music venues||Music venues per 100,000|
|1||Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX||2,168,316||1,007||46.4|
|2||San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA||3,343,364||1,438||43.0|
|3||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1,999,107||818||40.9|
|4||New Orleans-Metairie, LA||1,270,399||497||39.1|
|5||Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||2,237,647||854||38.3|
|6||San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA||4,729,484||1,730||36.6|
|8||Urban Honolulu, HI||980,080||327||33.4|
|12||New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||19,979,477||5,116||25.6|
|13||Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI MSA||1,576,113||402||25.5|
|16||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||3,142,663||719||22.9|
|18||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||13,291,486||2,984||22.5|
|22||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||6,198,782||1,242||20.0|
|23||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||2,518,036||493||19.6|
|27||Salt Lake City, UT||1,222,540||232||19.0|
|28||Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||942,198||178||18.9|
|31||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA||5,949,951||1,070||18.0|
|32||St. Louis, MO-IL||2,805,465||504||18.0|
|33||Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||850,967||152||17.9|
|35||Kansas City, MO-KS||2,143,651||370||17.3|
|37||Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||1,297,310||220||17.0|
|39||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||3,629,190||613||16.9|
|42||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||6,997,384||1,131||16.2|
|45||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||4,622,361||684||14.8|
|48||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||1,728,733||235||13.6|
|49||Oklahoma City, OK||1,396,445||189||13.5|
|51||El Paso, TX||845,553||113||13.4|
|55||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||7,539,711||961||12.7|
|58||New Haven-Milford, CT||857,620||100||11.7|
|63||Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT||1,206,300||129||10.7|
|66||Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI||1,069,405||107||10.0|
|Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)||2018 population estimate||Number of live music venues||Music venues per 100,000|
|Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX||2,168,316||1,007||46.4|
|San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA||3,343,364||1,438||43.0|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1,999,107||818||40.9|
|New Orleans-Metairie, LA||1,270,399||497||39.1|
|Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||2,237,647||854||38.3|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA||4,729,484||1,730||36.6|
|Urban Honolulu, HI||980,080||327||33.4|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||19,979,477||5,116||25.6|
|Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI MSA||1,576,113||402||25.5|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||3,142,663||719||22.9|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||13,291,486||2,984||22.5|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||6,198,782||1,242||20.0|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||2,518,036||493||19.6|
|Salt Lake City, UT||1,222,540||232||19.0|
|Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||942,198||178||18.9|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA||5,949,951||1,070||18.0|
|St. Louis, MO-IL||2,805,465||504||18.0|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||850,967||152||17.9|
|Kansas City, MO-KS||2,143,651||370||17.3|
|Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN||1,297,310||220||17.0|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||3,629,190||613||16.9|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX||6,997,384||1,131||16.2|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||4,622,361||684||14.8|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||1,728,733||235||13.6|
|Oklahoma City, OK||1,396,445||189||13.5|
|El Paso, TX||845,553||113||13.4|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||7,539,711||961||12.7|
|New Haven-Milford, CT||857,620||100||11.7|
|Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT||1,206,300||129||10.7|
|Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI||1,069,405||107||10.0|