I just moved from Austin, Texas to Richmond, Virginia. It was for personal reasons, but it made me think: how might this move benefit my music career? So this post will cover why you may (or may not) want to move to a music city. And by “music city,” I mean a city with a vibrant music scene. Lots of concerts and open mics, a strong music community, and even organizations that help musicians in some way.
What Are the Top Music Cities in the United States?
According to a survey of 1,320 people done in December 2022, below are the top 20 music cities…
18. Portland, OR (tied)
18. Columbus, OH (tied)
18. Dallas, TX (tied)
17. Kansas City, KS
15. Philadelphia, PA (tied)
15. Detroit, MI (tied)
13. Seattle, WA (tied)
13. Asheville, NC (tied)
12. Washington DC
11. Boston, MA
10. San Francisco, CA
9. Denver, CO
8. Memphis, TN
7. Chicago, IL
6. Las Vegas, NV
5. Los Angeles, CA
4. Austin, TX
3. New York, NY
2. New Orleans, LA
1. Nashville, TN
And yes, I moved from one of the top five music cities to a city that’s not even on this list. But Richmond still has a decent music scene. And, because I mostly do remote production, I don’t exactly need to be in a music city.
So when I say “music city” in this post, I’m thinking about one of the music cities on this list. However, there are plenty of cities not on this list that have healthy music scenes.
When It Makes Sense To Move To a Music City
Here are the main reasons it might make sense for you to move to a music city. If these reasons don’t match your goals, then you may be just fine staying where you are, or moving to a city not on the above list.
If You Play Live
This is the most obvious reason to move to a music city. If you live in Nowhereville, no one will come to your shows. In fact, you may have trouble finding venues to book you.
Whereas, in a music city, you have so many places to play and an audience hungry for live music. It will also be much easier to find other musicians to join you on stage.
On top of this, it’s more likely there will be an industry professional you may want to meet sitting in attendance at one of your shows (if that’s something you want).
If You Want a Publishing Deal
A publishing deal is when you, a songwriter, sign a contract with a publishing company to exploit your songs for profit for both parties. So basically, you write songs and the publishing company tries to get artists to record and release those songs (unless you’re also an artist).
A publishing company also:
- Assists in getting songs placed on TV and in movies
- Collects and distributes songwriter royalties to you
- Connects you with other songwriters, often songwriters on their roster
The best way to get a publishing deal is to do an in-person co-write with a songwriter who already has a publishing deal. Then, if you end up writing a good song, that songwriter’s publishing company may take notice of you.
If You Want To Collaborate
Speaking of co-writing, moving to a music city gives you more opportunities for collaboration. This can also include starting a band, joining musician networking groups, and co-producing songs with other artists.
Yes, you can collaborate remotely. But in my experience, in-person collabs are much more efficient and lead to better results. There’s something special about connecting with another human in the same room.
If You Want To Do In-Person Production
If you’re a songwriter or artist who wants to work with a producer in-person, or if you’re a producer who wants to work in-person with a songwriter or artist…
It’s best to be where they are.
You can definitely produce songs remotely (I do a lot of that). But the times I’ve produced a song with someone in the same room, it’s been a way better experience. We get a lot more done in a lot less time. And similar to co-writing in person, something about the flow and energy in the room leads to better results.
I know first-hand, moving to a whole new city is a big deal. So hopefully, this post has educated you on whether it makes sense for you.