What Are the Best Music Cities in the U.S.?

Evelyn Long

Oct 6, 2021


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While traveling throughout the United States, you’re bound to hear a variety of music as you pass through some of the best music cities in the US. From pop to rock to country, various musical sounds permeate the country. 

Everyone listens to music, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It eases stress, pumps you up for a workout session, soothes you to sleep and gets you through the day. Music is a crucial part of entertainment and well-being. 

Music shapes culture and helps define a city’s identity. America itself is home to many music types, and some towns have birthed their own genres, so if you’re looking for places around the U.S. to visit for their music scene, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you want to learn the history of a particular music genre or listen to live music while dining on local cuisine, each of these cities offers something a bit different and unique. 

What are the best music cities in the U.S.? Read on to find out! 

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is known for its country music scene. It’s honky-tonk central, filled with dive bars, studios and plenty of country music. Music lives in Nashville. Although many historic musicians like Dolly Parton have made their start in this city, it’s a city that thrives on people and live music. 

Everywhere you go, you’re bound to hear up-and-coming or hopeful artists. You can go to the Grand Ole Opry for true country, but know that there’s more than guitars, Cadillacs and hillbilly music. There’s also a robust rock-and-roll scene, contemporary acoustic and Indie artists. 

Detroit, Michigan

If you’re into soulful music, then you want to make a stop in Detroit. It’s the birthplace of Motown music, which is a highly successful music label. Famous artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5 started in Detroit, recording their first hits in the 1960s. 

The blues and jazz are still prevalent in clubs throughout the city. However, Detroit has another claim to fame — it’s where the Belleville Three began using technology in their music in new ways. Techno started in this city. 

New York City, New York

New York City is a city known for its food, entertainment, skyscrapers and even music. Broadway is the best place in the United States to catch a musical with highly skilled musicians and actors that bring live music to life. There’s also Carnegie Hall, the Bowery Ballroom and Radio City Music Hall. 

Even more, though, is the hip-hop scene in New York. Head to the Bronx, Queens, Harlem or Brooklyn to hear all hip-hop sounds, from beats and rhythms to rhymes and spins. You can even explore the history of this music genre through a special tour. Besides hip-hop, disco and punk originated here. 

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is home to the Chicago Blues, a style of music that evolved after the World Wars. Many African Americans moved north to look for jobs and a better life, and Chicago was a huge attraction. Thousands of people migrated to this city, and they transformed the music scene.

The blues didn’t originate in Chicago, but the genre found a new voice because of the migration. This city has also generated other music artists from different genres, like Disturbed, Kanye West and Fall Out Boy. In the summer, you can find tons of huge music festivals as well. 

Memphis, Tennessee

In another part of Tennessee, you’ll find the birthplace of rock and roll. In 1951, Sun Studios recorded the song “Rocket 88” by Ike Turner and the Delta Cats. Many people view this as the first rock and roll style song. When a malfunctioned amp created a distorted guitar sound, it became the hallmark of rock. 

Elvis Presley also recorded his first song here. His home is in Memphis, Graceland, and you can visit it while you’re in Memphis. The city is still full of music venues down Beale Street, meaning you can hear live music all the time.

Austin, Texas

Although there’s no musical genre that originated here, Austin is still home to multiple music festivals. Two of the most popular festivals include Austin City Limits and South By Southwest. Both feature thousands of performers and numerous venues to cover folk music, hip-hop, Indie rock and punk.

Because of all of the festivals, Austin, Texas is also known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” You can listen to live music from supermarkets to airports to restaurants. 

New Orleans, Louisiana

Jazz became popular in the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana. The genre was created in the 1920s when enslaved African Americans would join together to dance, sing and play drums. The rhythms of Afric combined with European sounds to generate the sound you know today as jazz.

New Orleans jazz is a bit different from polite jazz because it has a bit more of a pop and bites that make you want to dance and sing along, especially when there’s a brass band playing. You can hear live music and the sounds of jazz all throughout the city. 

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis bred one of the most famous and legendary artists — Prince. If you’re a Prince fan, then Minneapolis is a must-see location, especially at Paisley Park, where the late legend comes to life. It’s a purple mansion in the middle of the suburbs that screams Prince. 

This city is more than Prince, though. It offers plenty of music venues like Northrop Auditorium and the Target Center, where you can catch music performances all year round. Minneapolis offers music festivals, too, like Mill City Love, Dakota Jazz Club Festival and Basilica Rock Party.

Seattle, Washington

If you listen to Pearl Jam, Nirvana or Blind Melon, you need to pack your bags and head to Seattle, Washington. These bands play grunge music, which became a more popular music genre in the 1990s. Even before that, Jimi Hendrix came from Seattle.

Although these are some artists from the past, Seattle brings new artists to the music industry. More recently, the city produced Macklemore and The Shins. Multiple clubs and bars invite hopeful artists to play live music all the time, too. 

Los Angeles, California

On the West Coast of the United States, there are plenty of great places to visit. If you’re looking for music, though, then Los Angeles is the place to be. The City of Angels represents much of the West Coast music scene, with theaters like the Staples Center — where the Grammy’s are hosted — the Hollywood Bowl and El Rey.

You can find A&M Records and Capital Records headquarters, as well as plenty of musical landmarks associated with the Hollywood glitz. The Sunset Strip hosts live music all the time, so take a listen and then head to Amobea Music to get lost in records. 

Asheville, North Carolina

The south is full of music cities, and this third one is all about bluegrass and boot-stomping music. Asheville is similar to Nashville in the country-music sense, but without all of the commercial aspects. People simply play music for music’s sake. 

Asheville is in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountain range in North Carolina, and it has great live music venues, summer festivals and hidden gems filled with music. Venues like the Grey Eagle and the Orange Peel have helped this town reach its popularity for music. It blends old and new music traditions for modern mountain music.

Go Where the Music Takes You

Which of the best music cities in the us will you visit next? Each of these cities brings a unique sound, and all are worth the trip.

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