5 US Cities With Incredible Music Scenes



Austin’s music backlash has already begun. Inundated each year by throngs of musicians and music lovers alike for South By South West (SXSW; it’s still worth going) and Austin City Limits (ACL), Austin puts up with a lot in terms of music tourism. But can they really blame us? Live music is an indelible part of in the cities’ DNA. The city boasts over 250 live music venues, world famous BBQ, and a great climate.

Top Venues: The Broken SpokeContinental ClubThe White HorseGinny’s Little Longhorn Saloon

Notable Locals: Gary Clark, Jr., Explosions in the Sky, Spoon, Voxtrot


Admittedly I’m biased. As a musician from NYC, the city has been good to me. As a music fan, it’s been even better. The city is the birthplace of hip hop, bebop, disco, punk rock, and new wave, and whether it’s a stadium shows or an intimate jazz performance you want, the city that never sleeps has it. Music-wise, residents of New York are pretty spoiled, and while live music has been priced out of the city proper, Brooklyn is still host to many burgeoning and DIY music scenes (until it get’s priced out of there too…)

Top Venues: Baby’s All RightMusic Hall of WilliamsburgHighline BallroomTrans-Pecos 

Notable Locals: Grizzly Bear, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z


Chicago is renown for its blues musicians, and while the genre originally developed in the south, it settled and fully matured in Chicago. The city remains a musically vibrant, and one of the best in America in terms of music festivals. Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest take place there every year, and the city is home to the musical tastemakers Pitchfork Media, The Onions’ A.V. Club, and the nationally syndicated Sound Opinions radio show.

Top Venues: Empty BottleDouble DoorBuddy Guy’s LegendsSchubas

Notable Locals: Andrew Bird, The Smashing Pumpkins, Benny Goodman, Lupe Fiasco


There’s not a city tied more closely to music in our cultural consciousness than Nashville, TN. Nicknamed the “Music City”, Nashville is the capital of country music. It’s home to The Grand Ole Opry, which is both the “Carnegie Hall of the South” and the name of America’s longest running radio show which it has hosted since 1925. And while it’s mostly a country music town, other genres have flourished there as well, including rock and indie. Infinity Cat Recordings and Third Man Records, two of the music industries most forward thinking labels, are based there.

Top Venues: Grimey’sRyman AuditoriumRobert’s Western World

Notable Locals: JEFF the Brotherhood, Kings of Leon, Paramore


While Detroit has recently been in the news for its financial troubles, the city has a rich musical history and is undergoing a resurgence of underground music. From Motown, which helped define the early 60’s, to the emergence of techno, which did the same for the late 80’s and 90’s, Detroit’s music has always been on point. Detroit techno exploded in Berlin after the wall fell, helping to unite the split city. Now Berlin is returning the favor. “Detroit techno was the soundtrack to reunification,” said Dimitri Hegemann, who wants to turn Detroit’s Fisher Body 21, an abandoned autoparts plant into a techno nightclub. In a WSJ article he noted that because of the city’s “deserted buildings, cheap rents and a gritty reputation” Detroit is poised for a cultural rebirth.

Top Venues: Cliff Bell’sStonehouseOld Miami

Notable Locals: Aaliyah, Jack White, Stevie Wonder, Eminem

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