The Best Cities for Live Music

Even with so many options for streaming music, we are still drawn to the live performance, whether it's a 120-piece orchestra in a large concert hall or a lone busker on a street corner.

From the first note to the last, we are seduced by live music, drawn by both the sound and the sight, the emotion buzzing through the crowd. Perhaps we want to be part of something, to witness a unique performance, to share the experience with others who also want to feel their heart beating in the rhythm of the music.

It's nice to live somewhere where your favorite artists like to perform, to be able to experience an evening of live music at your neighborhood pub, or to splurge on a big concert with friends. In a city that's rich with live music, you may hear the energetic sound of a mariachi band drifting through the door of a restaurant, or the moan of a cello echoing through the subway halls as you catch your train.

On that note, here are the best cities where you can enjoy a fresh and exciting live music scene. Move.org, a site that provides relocation services and moving resources and reviews, ranked the best cities for live music based on the number of venues per 100,000 residents by searching Yelp for music venues in the 70 most populated U.S. metro areas. (Other criteria, like a city's musical diversity, number of live shows per day, or musical history were not used as ranking factors.) These are the best cities for live music.

Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

1. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
1. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas

The Best Cities For People Who Love Live Music

1. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas

  • Population: 2.2 million
  • Live music venues: 1,007
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 46.4

It's no surprise that Austin tops the list. The city has more than a thousand venues, and the highest number of venues per capita. The downtown streets are alive with bars and clubs playing a diverse mix of music daily -- you're unlikely to step outside without hearing a talented band here, even on the sidewalk. The city hosts music festivals year round, including the famed SXSW music festival and Austin City Limits.

Photo: PiercarloAbate / Shutterstock

2. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, Calif.
2. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, Calif.

2. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, Calif.

  • Population: 3.3 million
  • Live music venues: 1,438
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 43

Year-round mild weather and fresh ocean air in San Diego makes it a great place for outdoor concerts, from rock n' roll to classical. The Casbah in Midtown has long been a prime spot to see up-and-coming acts. Above, people listen to live music in Old Town San Diego.

Photo: Tim Gray / Shutterstock

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

  • Population: 2 million
  • Live music venues: 818
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 40.9

While there's not really a central beating heart for music venues here like there is in Austin, there's plenty of places in the South Bay to catch great bands, whether it's jazz, rock, blues, hip-hop or classical, and a multitude of large concert arenas. Pictured is San Jose's Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

4. New Orleans
4. New Orleans

4. New Orleans

  • Population: 1.3 million
  • Live music venues: 497
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 39.1

The birthplace of jazz even has its own style of jazz. Louis Armstrong was born and raised here. One of the country's largest music festivals, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, is held here every spring, and jazz is just the beginning -- the festival, and the city itself, is an auditory tapestry of musical genres, from blues, rap, rock, country and R&B to gospel, Cajun, zydeco, folk and Afro-Caribbean.

Photo: Simply Photos / Shutterstock

5. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
5. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada

5. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada

  • Population: 2.2 million
  • Live music venues: 854
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 38.3

A must-stop for most touring musicians, the Las Vegas area has a wealth of large and small music venues in casinos, restaurants, and concert halls. And, of course, you can see many of the greats any time, like Stevie Wonder, above, at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum -- though the wax versions don't perform.

Photo: Roig61 / Shutterstock

6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, Calif.
6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, Calif.

6. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, Calif.

  • Population: 4.73 million
  • Live music venues: 1,730
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 36.6

So many bands started out in San Francisco, there are too many to list. Some of the biggies include Jefferson Airplane, Journey, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, The Steve Miller Band, Huey Lewis, Third Eye Blind and the Dead Kennedys. San Francisco offers everything from gritty street musicians to top opera productions. Pictured is the Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate Park in 2017.

Photo: Sterling Munksgard / Shutterstock

7. Portland -Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.
7. Portland -Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.

7. Portland -Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.

  • Population: 2.5 million
  • Live music venues: 844
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 34

Portland, Ore., has an abundance music venues and a lively underground music scene. Above, a one-man band plays alongside the streetcar tracks in downtown Portland.

Photo: Dee Browning / Shutterstock

8. Honolulu
8. Honolulu

8. Honolulu

  • Population: 980,080
  • Live music venues: 327
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 33.4

Honolulu isn't just a vacation spot. With its blend of cultures, the city offers a lively, eclectic music scene with more than 300 venues, plenty of outdoor music spots, cafes, bars, and larger venues for big name bands.

Photo: ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock

9. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.
9. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.

9. Raleigh-Cary, N.C.

  • Population: 1.4 million
  • Live music venues: 388
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 28.5

Raleigh is loaded with music fans, and is known for its bluegrass, but a diverse community of musicians in almost every other genre has helped shape the music scene here. Above, the Wide Open Blue Grass Festival in 2018, where as many as eight stages take over downtown Raleigh.

Photo: PT Hamilton / Shutterstock

10. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.
10. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.

10. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.

  • Population: 2.9 million
  • Live music venues: 796
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 27.1

One of Denver's top spots is the open-air Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a unique place to hear live music, and see the stars (both the musiical kind and the sky kind.) It's surrounded by 738 acres of wildlife, geological wonders and great views.

Photo: Radomir Rezny / Shutterstock

11. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, N.Y.
11. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, N.Y.

11. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, N.Y.

  • Population: 1.1 million
  • Live music venues: 304
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 26.9
Photo: Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock

12. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.
12. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.

12. New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.

  • Population: 20 million
  • Live music venues: 5,116
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 25.6

Above, a jazz band plays on Park Avenue during the Summer Solstice Music Festival in New York City in 2018.

Photo: JJFarq / Shutterstock

13. Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wis.
13. Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wis.

13. Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wis.

  • Population: 1.6 million
  • Live music venues: 402
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 25.5

Above, the Pabst Theater is the jewel of Milwaukee's downtown district, and one of several historic venues for music and other performances.

Photo: PabstTheater.org

14. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.
14. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.

14. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.

  • Population: 9.5 million
  • Live music venues: 2,420
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 25.5

Photo: Joaquin Ossorio Castillo / Shutterstock

15. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
15. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.

15. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.

  • Population: 3.9 million
  • Live music venues: 957
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 24.3

Photo: Checubus / Shutterstock

16. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
16. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.

16. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.

  • Population: 3.1 million
  • Live music venues: 719
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.9

Photo: Shutterstock

17. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, Calif.
17. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, Calif.

17. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, Calif.

  • Population: 2.3 million
  • Live music venues: 533
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.7

Photo: Shutterstock

18. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif.
18. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif.

18. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif.

  • Population: 13.3 million
  • Live music venues: 2,984
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.5

Pictured is the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Photo: shuttersv / Shutterstock.com

19. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
19. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.

19. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.

  • Population: 1.9 million
  • Live music venues: 433
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.4

Photo: Shutterstock

20. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.
20. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.

20. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.

  • Population: 2 million
  • Live music venues: 453
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.1

Photo: Shutterstock

21. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.
21. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.

21. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.

  • Population: 2.6 million
  • Live music venues: 568
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 22.1

Photo: Shutterstock

22. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.
22. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.

22. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.

  • Population: 6.2 million
  • Live music venues: 1,242
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 20

Photo: travelview / Shutterstock

23. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
23. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas

23. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas

  • Population: 2.5 million
  • Live music venues: 493
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 19.6

Photo: Eblis / Shutterstock

24. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio
24. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

24. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio

  • Population: 2.06 million
  • Live music venues: 401
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 19.5

Cleveland is home to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, above.

Photo: Checubus / Shutterstock

25. Cincinnati
25. Cincinnati

25. Cincinnati

  • Population: 2.3 million
  • Live music venues: 424
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 19.4

Above, the Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati in 2015.

Photo: Jack Fordyce / Shutterstock

26. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C.-S.C.
26. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C.-S.C.

26. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, N.C.-S.C.

  • Population: 2.6 million
  • Live music venues: 491
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 19.1

Photo: Shutterstock

27. Salt Lake City
27. Salt Lake City

27. Salt Lake City

  • Population: 1.2 million
  • Live music venues: 232
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 19

Photo: Shutterstock

28. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa
28. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa

28. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa

  • Population: 942,198
  • Live music venues: 178
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 18.9

Photo: Shutterstock

29. Tucson, Ariz.
29. Tucson, Ariz.

29. Tucson, Ariz.

  • Population: 1.04 million
  • Live music venues: 190
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 18.3

29 Cities Alive With Musical Culture

Photo: Shutterstock

30. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Ariz.
30. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Ariz.

30. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Ariz.

  • Population: 5 million
  • Live music venues: 878
  • Music venues per 100,000 people: 18.1

See the ranking of all 70 metro areas at Move.org.

Photo: Paul R. Jones / Shutterstock

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