New Study Names Nashville Number One Music City in America

We're number one, and it's not just for country ...

Written by Chris Parton
New Study Names Nashville Number One Music City in America
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES - 2017/07/17: Pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland river and the lights of the Nashville city skyline at dusk. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Nashville has long held up its title as “Music City” with pride, but observers have often assumed it was really just “Country Music City.” That changes today, as a new study has ranked cities all over America — regardless of genre and relying on hard data — with Nashville on top.

Published by real estate data company Clever and written by Taelor Candiloro, the report is a deep dive into the nuts-and-bolts that make music cities different from the rest. Clever looked at data like the number of small venues, the amount of working musicians, how much money those artists make and the number of nearby festivals. They did so in the 50 biggest American metro areas, and pulled figures from “publicly available data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indie on the Move, and more.” Then they created a cool interactive info-graph to lay it all. Here’s the result:

Nashville is the number one city for music in all of America overall. We ranked number one both for the number of full-time musicians per 100,000 residents (127), and intimate concert spaces per capita (6.7), meaning there are more musicians and more places for them to play here than anywhere else. That may not be so surprising, but the study also found musicians make good money here, with a median income of $28.81/hr. The national average is $31.92 and San Jose musicians make the most, with a median of $56.64/hr (but far fewer venues to work in).

Meanwhile, ticket prices are more affordable in Nashville than 32% of other areas, coming in at $130 on average. Las Vegas fans will pay much more, at around $206 per show. And if you did want to break it down by genre, Nashville also ranks number one for country music (plus heavy metal, surprisingly).

Just behind Nashville in the overall standings are cities like Indianapolis; Portland, Oregon; and Austin — which is once again the top city in the U.S. for live music — plus a few surprises like Salt Lake City (number one for dance music) and Buffalo, N.Y. (number 10 overall).

Then there are the WORST cities for music, which is just as much fun to break down. Miami ranks number 50 with just a few small venues and high ticket prices, while Las Vegas was named the second worst overall. That’s kind of astounding given each city’s reputation as entertainment destinations — and with Vegas’ exploding residency scene, which now features Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, George Strait and more — but if you’re looking for music, there are better options. Others on the bottom of the list include the Texan trifecta of Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

There’s much more to discover and plenty of data to back it up, but the end result is this: WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!! Plus, Clever went ahead and did a broader health check on the recorded music industry while they were at it, and found things are trending in the right direction. … So hopefully, Nashville will stay on top for years to come.

“Streaming services saw a 26% increase in profits in early 2021, comprising nearly two-thirds ($4.6 billion) of the industry’s revenue that season,” they write. “Meanwhile, revenue from vinyl sales increased by 94% to $467 million in just the first half of 2021. Overall, global music revenues have steadily and continuously grown over the past six years.”