5 Great Smaller Towns for Lovers of Live Music

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Music aficionados and aspiring performers have long moved to New York or Los Angeles to take advantage of those communities' numerous performance venues -- but plenty of smaller towns have thriving music scenes, too.

"Every city moves to a different beat, so the live-music experience is fresh no matter where you go," says Rich Beattie of Travel + Leisure magazine, whose annual America's Favorite Cities poll of thousands of tourists includes a ranking of 35 metro areas for live-music offerings.

Long-time music "capital" New Orleans tops the latest list, but plenty of cities off the beaten path -- from Providence, R.I., to Portland, Ore. -- also scored highly.

Beattie says that's a big plus for cities high on the list, even in an era of MP3s, YouTube and high-definition TV.

"Outlets like YouTube can help promote the live-music scene, as they offer exposure to lesser-known bands," he says. "But as any concertgoer knows, they're no substitute for the real thing."

Here's a look the music and real-estate scenes in five lesser-known communities that made the survey's Top 20 list.

All median home prices refer to houses, condos and townhouses listed as of January on Realtor.com, the National Association of Realtors' official property-listing site. Examples of available residences are properties within approximately 20 miles of each city's borders.

Denver
Median list price: $245,000
Denver, which ranks 16th on Travel + Leisure's list, has had a vibrant music scene ever since folk singers Judy Collins and John Denver (real name: Henry John Deutschendorf) got their starts there in the 1960s.

Today, clubs such as Red Rocks, the Paramount Theatre and the Fillmore continue the Mile High City's live-music tradition.

Up-and-coming pop bands include the Fray and the Flobots, while classical-music fans enjoy the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The 14-piece Denver Brass ensemble also plays everything from Broadway tunes to Latin rhythms.

As for real estate, Denver-area homes carry a $245,000 median list price on Realtor.com -- up 6.6% from a year ago. There are some 12,900 local homes listed for sale on the site, from an $18,000 foreclosed two-bedroom condo to a $20 million, 741-acre ranch in Sedalia, some 20 miles outside the city.

Kansas City, Mo.
Median list price: $134,500
Kansas City, which comes in at 15th in Travel + Leisure's poll, has a musical scene so elaborate there's actually a style of music known as "Kansas City Jazz."

The great Count Basie led the Kansas City Jazz movement in the 1930s, while legendary saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker got his start in KC in the 1940s.

The city still has an active jazz scene, with jazz clubs in the 18th & Vine area. There's also an annual Kansas City Jazz and Blues Festival, as well as live music of all types in the city's Westport district.

As for classical music, the community hosts the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

In the real estate market, the Kansas City area's median list prices rose 3.5% over the past year to hit $134,500 on Realtor.com.

The site lists some 12,900 Kansas City properties for sale, priced from $4,100 for a two-bedroom fixer-upper to $11.9 million for a 1.7-acre estate in nearby Mission Hills, Kan.

Providence, R.I.
Median list price: N/A
Rhode Island's capital places 14th on Travel + Leisure's survey, with a thriving music scene centered around clubs that cater to students from Brown University and other area schools. (Members of the Talking Heads -- arguably Providence's most famous band -- met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design.)

Classical-music lovers also enjoy the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Providence, while nearby Newport, R.I., hosts the famous Newport Jazz Festival and sister Newport Folk Festival every summer.

Realtor.com doesn't track median prices for Providence, but does list some 10,000 properties for sale in and around the city. Prices range from $20,000 for a four-bedroom fixer-upper house to $12.9 million for a 50-acre estate in Little Compton.

Memphis
Median list price: $146,620
Travel + Leisure survey participants voted Memphis the 10th best U.S. locale for live music, and Congress officially declared the city's famous Beale Street as the "Home of the Blues" in 1977.

Made famous by the W.C. Handy song Beale Street Blues, the strip hosts lots of music clubs and other attractions popular with tourists and locals alike. The annual Beale Street Music Festival is also a big draw.

Memphis is also the home of Sun Records, where Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and other early rock 'n' roll stars got their start in the 1950s. Presley's famous Graceland mansion is also in town, while the city hosts "Elvis Week" each year.

In the 1960s, Memphis-based Stax Records also popularized songs by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and other rhyme-and-blues greats.

"The blues imbues Memphis with energy," Beattie says. "And no matter what residents may think of Elvis Week, they love the music scene here."

Realtor.com says median Memphis list prices have risen 8.6% over the past year to hit $146,620.

The site lists some 7,000 Memphis-area properties for sale, priced from $2,500 for a vacant three-bedroom house to $4.6 million for a restored 102-year-old urban home.

Minneapolis/St. Paul
Median list price: $185,000
Minneapolis native Prince put the Twin Cities' music scene on the map in the late 1970s and early 1980s, filming his 1984 hit movie Purple Rain there.

The film, partly shot at local dance club First Avenue, also made other Minneapolis musicians such as Morris Day famous.

First Avenue and its sister club 7th Street Entry are still in operation, as are several other live-music venues. The restored Orpheum, State, Goodale and Pantages theaters also host concerts and musicals, while the Minnesota Orchestra also calls the Twin Cities home.

All of that helped put Minneapolis/St. Paul in eighth place overall in Travel + Leisure's survey.

"The Twin Cities were the launching pad for some iconic acts -- that fact isn't lost among today's striving musicians and their fans," Beattie says. "They create a powerful energy in the local clubs."

As for housing, Minneapolis/St. Paul's median list prices rose 2.8% over the past year to hit $185,000 on Realtor.com.

The roughly 15,500 Twin Cities listings on the site run the gamut from a $900 one-bedroom Minneapolis foreclosure to a $24 million 13-acre estate on Lake Minnetonka in tony Orono.

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