Four Unsung Cities for Musicians to Move to

Jon Fesmire | November 7, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

Whether you earn a living as a musician, or making music is something you enjoy on the side, it helps to live in a city with like-minded people and great opportunities.

For this list, we’ve left out the three best-known music cities (Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville) and picked four great ones you may not have thought about.

Omaha, Nebraska

Welcome to music in the Midwest! Yes, Omaha, a city with a population of 450,000 and a history of jazz, is a great spot for musicians. Today, it’s also known for its indie music scene with acoustic leanings. If you or your band publish your music independently, you should have no problem also networking with others who do the same.

When looking for performance venues, consider the Sokol Auditorium, the Waiting Room, Slowdown, and the Down Under Lounge. Looking for a local record label? Try your luck with Saddle Creek Records, home to artists like Bright Eyes, Tokyo Police Club, and The Faint.

Seattle, Washington

There’s something about rain that makes music a little more enjoyable, so it’s no wonder this rainy, liberal city has always had such a thriving music scene. Seattle has a population of about 705,000, including lots of musicians and music lovers.

If you’re an indie musician, this is a great place to meet others and form a band, jam, write songs together, or just share resources. If you want to try getting onto a label, Seattle has several, including Sub Pop Records, Barsuk Records, and Tooth & Nail Records. Seattle birthed grunge rock, but it welcomes all sorts of music. After all, this is the city that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Macklemore, and Dave Matthews, as well as Nirvana.

Get your band booked at Neumos or Tractor Tavern, and make new friends at any of Seattle’s annual music festivals, like Bumbershoot, Sasquatch, and Zootunes.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has arts, drama, and yes, a great music scene. Indie and signed artists alike will enjoy it for its sheer variety of music. Jazz and blues have their own flavor in Chicago, but rock, electronica, and more do well here, too. This is a big city of 2.7 million people, and there’s room for all musical tastes.

If you’re looking for a local record label, consider sending your demo to Maek, Thrill Jockey, or Bloodshot Records, and get gigs playing at Empty Bottle, Lincoln Hall, Park West, and The Hideout.

If you didn’t realize that Chicago was home to a great music scene, consider some of the acts that the city has produced over the past half-dozen decades, from Chicago (yes, named after the city) to R. Kelly, Kanye West, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The original 13 colonies of the U.S. have many wonderful cities for music, but Pittsburgh is one you may not have considered. Still, it represents the area well. From the early 20th Century to the present, Pittsburgh has been home to acts like Kenny Clarke, Christina Aguilera, and Wiz Khalifa. Country, jazz, pop, rock, and indie music all have a place here.

The city has a population of 304,000, so you’re bound to find musicians you enjoy playing with. Once you have your band together, if you’re looking for a great place to perform, try Gooski’s, Howlers Coyote Cafe, Brillobox, or The Smiling Moose, among others. If you want to go indie, you should have no trouble finding others to make music with. If you’re looking for a local label, check out A-F Records and Wild Kindness.

We hope this list helps you find a great place to live and make your music. On the other hand, if you want to pursue your passion for music where you are, we encourage you to look for fellow musicians. It can be worthwhile to grow the music scene in your area.

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