Best Cities for People Who Love Live Music

Best Cities for Music Lovers Map

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.

Methodology

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.

Sources

Full data set

Ranking Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)2018 population estimateNumber of live music venuesMusic venues per 100,000 
1Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX2,168,3161,00746.4
2San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA3,343,3641,43843.0
3San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,999,10781840.9
4New Orleans-Metairie, LA1,270,39949739.1
5Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 2,237,64785438.3
6San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA 4,729,4841,73036.6
7Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2,478,81084434.0
8Urban Honolulu, HI980,08032733.4
9Raleigh-Cary, NC1,362,54038828.5
10Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO2,932,41579627.1
11Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY1,130,15230426.9
12New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA19,979,4775,11625.6
13Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI MSA1,576,11340225.5
14Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 9,498,7162,42025.5
15Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA3,939,36395724.3
16Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL3,142,66371922.9
17Sacramento–Roseville–Folsom, CA2,345,21053322.7
18Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 13,291,4862,98422.5
19Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN1,930,96143322.4
20Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN2,048,70345322.1
21Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL2,572,69256822.1
22Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL6,198,7821,24220.0
23San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX2,518,03649319.6
24
Cleveland-Elyria, OH
2,057,00940119.5
25Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN2,190,20942419.4
26Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 2,569,21349119.1
27Salt Lake City, UT 1,222,54023219.0
28Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA942,19817818.9
29Tucson, AZ1,039,07319018.3
30Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ 4,857,96287818.1
31Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA5,949,9511,07018.0
32St. Louis, MO-IL2,805,46550418.0
33Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA850,96715217.9
34Jacksonville, FL1,534,70126917.5
35Kansas City, MO-KS2,143,65137017.3
36Rochester, NY1,071,08218217.0
37Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN1,297,31022017.0
38Columbus, OH2,106,54135616.9
39Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3,629,19061316.9
40Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 6,096,3721,00116.4
41Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH4,875,39079816.4
42Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 6,997,3841,13116.2
43Pittsburgh, PA 2,324,74336915.9
44Albuquerque, NM915,92713915.2
45Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA4,622,36168414.8
46Richmond, VA 1,306,17219214.7
47Memphis, TN-MS-AR1,350,62018413.6
48Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1,728,73323513.6
49Oklahoma City, OK1,396,445189 13.5
50Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT943,82312713.5
51El Paso, TX 845,55311313.4
52Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV6,249,95083013.3
53Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI4,326,44256713.1
54Tulsa, OK993,79713013.1
55Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX7,539,71196112.7
56Knoxville, TN883,30911012.5
57Columbia, SC832,6669811.8
58New Haven-Milford, CT857,62010011.7
59Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD2,802,78932511.6
60Greenville-Anderson, SC906,62610511.6
61Birmingham-Hoover, AL1,151,80113111.4
62Fresno, CA994,40011111.2
63Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT1,206,30012910.7
64Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ842,9138810.4
65Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY883,1699010.2
66Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI1,069,40510710.0
67Providence-Warwick, RI-MA1,621,3371569.6
68Worcester, MA-CT947,866859.0
69Bakersfield, CA896,764748.3
70McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX865,939495.7
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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
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2,478,810 844 34.0
Urban Honolulu, HI 980,080 327 33.4
Raleigh-Cary, NC 1,362,540 388 28.5
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 2,932,415 796 27.1
Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY 1,130,152 304 26.9
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
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 9,498,716 2,420 25.5
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,939,363 957 24.3
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 3,142,663 719 22.9
Sacramento–Roseville–Folsom, CA 2,345,210 533 22.7
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA  13,291,486 2,984 22.5
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 1,930,961 433 22.4
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 2,048,703 453 22.1
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 2,572,692 568 22.1
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 6,198,782 1,242 20.0
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2,518,036 493 19.6

Cleveland-Elyria, OH
2,057,009 401 19.5
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 2,190,209 424 19.4
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC  2,569,213 491 19.1
Salt Lake City, UT  1,222,540 232 19.0
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 942,198 178 18.9
Tucson, AZ 1,039,073 190 18.3
Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ  4,857,962 878 18.1
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
Jacksonville, FL 1,534,701 269 17.5
Kansas City, MO-KS 2,143,651 370 17.3
Rochester, NY 1,071,082 182 17.0
Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 1,297,310 220 17.0
Columbus, OH 2,106,541 356 16.9
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI  3,629,190 613 16.9
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD  6,096,372 1,001 16.4
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 4,875,390 798 16.4
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX  6,997,384 1,131 16.2
Pittsburgh, PA  2,324,743 369 15.9
Albuquerque, NM 915,927 139 15.2
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,622,361 684 14.8
Richmond, VA  1,306,172 192 14.7
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,350,620 184 13.6
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC  1,728,733 235 13.6
Oklahoma City, OK 1,396,445 189 13.5
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 943,823 127 13.5
El Paso, TX  845,553 113 13.4
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,249,950 830 13.3
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 4,326,442 567 13.1
Tulsa, OK 993,797 130 13.1
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 7,539,711 961 12.7
Knoxville, TN 883,309 110 12.5
Columbia, SC 832,666 98 11.8
New Haven-Milford, CT 857,620 100 11.7
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 2,802,789 325 11.6
Greenville-Anderson, SC 906,626 105 11.6
Birmingham-Hoover, AL 1,151,801 131 11.4
Fresno, CA 994,400 111 11.2
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT 1,206,300 129 10.7
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 842,913 88 10.4
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 883,169 90 10.2
Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI 1,069,405 107 10.0
Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 1,621,337 156 9.6
Worcester, MA-CT 947,866 85 9.0
Bakersfield, CA 896,764 74 8.3
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 865,939 49 5.7

About Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over three years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.
  • Del Duchesne

    Fascinating article. …good job Mr. Roberts, and as I read it, quite a few times I sat here ….shook my head and said…”Who Knew”. Thanx again . great class

  • Joshua Martelli

    I have to take issue with San Diego. Most major acts skip us in leu of LA and go right to Vegas or AZ. Yes there are a lot of second tier bands you can catch – but Radiohead, Tool, The Raconteurs…they all skipped SD this year. The others are spot on though especially Austin. But as a 35 year native I can tell you San Diegans are very apathetic concert goers. We’re too busy eating avocados at the beach…

  • Dean Humphries

    Joe Roberts: I’m a San Diego musician, been here for over 40 years. Not one musician I’m acquainted with here (close to a hundred) makes a living playing music – they used to! This is pretty insulting to read, passing this link around so people can know it’s best not to get music advice from a guy that writes about moving. Really!