The obvious ones are probably New York and Los Angeles, and then Nashville for country music. But which city is best for musicians who want to meet other musicians and find places to play a gig, from coffee shops to concert halls?
Any other cities you'd add to the list mentioned above?
After 10 years on the road with my band I know that there are 2 answers to this question.
1. You are an already successful musician and you can live were you like.
2. You are up and coming, you need to pick a spot that is close to at least three cities in easy traveling distance. And also close to a lot of colleges. The RaleighDurham area in North Carolina did our band very well, also that area has a ton of music festivals! If you are indi or hippstery austin Tx. Is the holy land. Good luck!
You said Nashville, but go about 100 miles SW of there to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. You will be surprised by the number of recording studios and bands that are there and it is no where near as expensive as LA, NY or Nashville.
first places to come to mind are Austin for their amazing music vibe and the annual SXSW festival. 6th Street is famous! Raleigh has a great young, college following as their are 3 large universities in the "Triangle." Glenwood South district has a great nightlife area. Nashville of course is Music City! Lots of dive bars and tons of talent. These are my U.S. recommendations based on personal experience in the south/southeast region.
In the United States, I'll go with Boston. You have some prestigious music schools there, and I was amazed at the number of local music stores (instruments, not CDs) and venues. Portland has a very active music scene, but I don't think I'd dig it much.
I expected Nordic cities to have a stronger metal presence than I detected - but maybe I wasn't looking in the right place. I'd love to fly all my gear to Helsinki and meet some other musicians to make some loudness!
I live in Arizona, and Phoenix is an absolutely terrible city for musicians. Not only are the venues scattered all over a huge number of square miles, but few venues treat the musicians well. And for such a huge city, we have a serious lack of places to get good equipment - mostly big-box stores and overpriced boutiques that exist to sell Gibsons to rich guys who can't play rather than put quality gear into the hands of working musicians. I actually drove a 230-mile roundtrip to Tucson to buy gear that I couldn't get in Phoenix (and Tucson is much smaller!).
On the other hand, a smaller city called Prescott is a great time for traveling bands. The music venues are condensed in the downtown area, which results in good, enthusiastic crowds.
If you want to go really exotic, I'll mention Tokyo. It has a ton of cool guitar shops, lots of venues and an interesting culture - always great indicators for a place to be a musician!
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Consider the northwest! Seattle and Portland both have vibrant music scenes. Travel further north and check out Bellingham, Washington for the college crowd and vibe. Grab your passport and cross the border to Vancouver B.C. to check out what's happening in that lovely city. (Just be sure to check out Canadian and American laws regarding musicians traveling across the border, both ways.) Besides being a great place for music, the area is beautiful, has great food, wonderful people and good weather.
This will surprise you! Charleston (West Virginia). Home to National Public Radio's Mountain Stage, you can hear live music every night in bars, coffee shops, etc. It has such a rich fabric of musical talent--everything from some of the very best Bluegrass musicians to blues and crazy eclectic. Locals started the WV Music Hall of Fame and all this is accentuated with other types of visual and culinary artists.