The Geography of America’s Music Scenes

From The Atlantic:

Major summer music festivals — like this past weekend’s Lollapalooza in Chicago, as well as Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee; Coachella near Palm Springs, California; Summerfest in Milwaukee; and the Newport Folk Festival, to mention just a few — bring fans together to specific locales to listen to bands from all over the world.

But where are America’s leading centers for musicians and the music industry? It’s an intriguing question since musicians are mobile with little to tie them down, even compared to high-tech industries and workers which tend to grow up around universities, advanced industries and centers of venture capital.

Numerous U.S. cities have staked claims as leading music centers. Seattle had its grunge, Chicago has electric blues, and Nashville its twang. Detroit was the birthplace of both Motown and the hard-edge distorted indie rock of The White Stripes. Austin has Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, and a host of legendary singer-songwriters. Then there’s of course New Orleans jazz, brass, and funk; San Francisco’s psychedelic sound; and the reverb-soaked rockabilly that is inextricably associated with Memphis’s Sun Records.

To better understand the geography of music in America, my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on the concentration of musicians and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis stats on music and recording industry business establishments, and combined the results into a Metro Music Index. It is important to point out that we are measuring the concentration of musicians and music-related businesses, not the vibrancy or impact or quality of artists to emerge from a regional scene. Ongoing MPI research is utilizing other unique data sources, including a huge amount of data culled from MySpace, to measure the diversity and richness of music scenes

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Atlantic