As soon as you make the decision to pursue a music career, one of the first questions you may ask yourself may be “Do I move?” While it isn’t easy making it in this industry, it can be notably more difficult to chase your music dreams from a place with little opportunity or music scene. There are many different options when it comes to music cities, and picking the right one all depends on what you’re looking to do in your career. Included in this list is the average cost of living for each location, as well as a few of the most popular indie-artist venues that locals are known to play at. Without further hesitation, here’s a compiled list of the top 10 music cities to move to and what they’re known for:
AVG rent: $1,502
Local Indie Artist Venues: The Basement East, Listening Room Cafe, Bluebird Cafe
Known as “music city”, when considering a move to pursue music this should be one of the top choices on your list. Nashville has just about everything you could ask for as an indie musician. With major label offices lined up on music row and a booming live music scene of all genres every night, you’re sure to have plenty of opportunity to get involved in this amazing community of talented writers. Not to mention, this one has one of the lowest averages for cost of living on this list.
AVG rent: $3,872
Local Indie Artist Venues: The Bitter End, Sidewalk Cafe, Market Hotel
Adding The Big Apple to this list was a guarantee given it is the biggest mecca in the U.S. for most industries, especially those having to deal with entertainment. NYC is known for its many booming music festivals, large stadiums, and quaint live music venues. It’s also known as a city where many famous singers found the began their careers. The streets of downtown New York City are lined with talent, making it a great network to get involved with. There are also several major label offices located here and plenty of performance venues that book local songwriters and artists. As a result of all this opportunity, New York is notoriously known for having high rent, so if this isn’t something you can work around there are plenty of other options waiting for you.
AVG rent: $2,450
Local Indie Artist Venues: Hotel Cafe, Kibitz Room, Silverlake Lounge
Los Angeles is yet another flourishing city known for making an entertainers’ dreams come true. If you’re a fan of beautiful weather all the time and a thriving music culture in all genres, LA may be worth your while. If you find yourself more interested in the artist and performance side of things rather than primarily just songwriting, LA is definitely a better choice than the others. The cost of living here falls between Nashville and New York City, however on an independent artists’ budget you may find yourself needing to juggle through working some side jobs and creating music on your own time.
AVG rent: $1,645
Local Indie Artist Venues: The Dragonfly Lounge, Grande Fumee Cigar Lounge, Kat’s Cafe
Everyone knows Atlanta is notably recognized for its roots in hip hop, R&B, and even indie music, so if this is your scene, pay attention! The city itself has over 300 recording studios and plenty of live music venues for artists to find their audience and get exposure. It’s also home to some of the most legendary names in music such as Kanye West, Usher, and Ludacris. Additionally, the cost of living in Atlanta isn’t too outrageous and is fairly reasonable for such a prosperous music mecca.
AVG rent: $1,837
Local Indie Artist Venues: The Joint of Miami, Roots Miami Kava Bar, Lincoln’s Brewing Co.
It’s hard to deny the presence of music in this city, as it holds the roots of some of the best latin and hip hop music in history. Pitbull, Jason Derulo, and Flo Rida all found their start here, and in terms of education, the Frost School of Music at UMiami has produced many famous alums. Due to its tourist volume, there’s a high demand for live music downtown, so whether you’re looking to play local clubs or larger venues there’s plenty of opportunity here. The cost of living is also much less than LA or NYC, even though it leans on the expensive side.
AVG rent: $1,712
Local Indie Artist Venues: Fergie’s Pub, The Grape Room, Raven Lounge
Although Philadelphia generally isn’t comparable to the idealized luxury lifestyle of LA or New York City, it does possess a rising music scene. Live music here is becoming more and more present in downtown bars and Philly venues such as Union Transfer, Johnny Brenda’s, and Kung Fu Necktie are emerging into well known performance hot spots. Apart from this, it’s just a two hour train ride away from the hustle of NYC if you’re looking for a place to start and are willing to commute for bigger opportunities.
AVG rent: $1,202
Local Indie Artist Venues: Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, Hi-Ho Lounge, Lucky’s Bar
If you’re familiar with the music scene in NOLA at all, you must be thinking it’s primarily jazz based. While the jazz influences in New Orleans remain heavily present in its downtown music venues, it is home to many different types of music such as soul, pop, R&B, hip hop, and more. New Orleans is home to a diverse and supportive music community, and while it isn’t as close to major labels and publishing companies as Nashville or LA, it has a significantly lower average cost of living. Generally the cost of living just outside of New Orleans is even more reasonable making it possible to stay long term and immerse yourself into the lucrative and stimulating live music opportunities it’s known for.
AVG rent: $933
Local Indie Artist Venues: Java Cabana, Rock House Live, Old Whitten Tavern.
Approximately just three hours out of Nashville is another notable music capital of Tennessee buzzing with new talent and significant music history. Memphis is home to the legendary rock & roll king Elvis Presley as well as Johnny Cash – and it still doesn’t disappoint in terms of good soul & blues music. Beale Street is crawling with themed bars and good live music every day of the week, and as a local here you’ll be sure to get inspired by all the musical aptitude. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in history for inspiration, Memphis has several music landmarks including the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Blues Hall of Fame and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Due to its convenient proximity to Nashville and its low cost of living average, this city is sure to captivate any musician.
AVG rent: $2,012
Local Indie Artist Venues: Gallery Cabaret, Davenport’s Piano Bar, The Pony Inn
Like New Orleans, the jazz and blues scene in Chicago is outrageously talented and has become integral in the city’s music history leading up to its modern influences; however, that’s definitely not all it’s known for. Aside from the venues listed, locals of the Chicago music community have found success playing Lincoln Hall, The Double Door, City Winery, and The Promontory. Although the average cost of living here is on the expensive side, if you’re looking for an active indie music scene, plenty of performance opportunities, an abundance of festivals, and better chances to connect with smaller labels, Chicago may be worth looking into.
AVG rent: $1,362
Local Indie Artist Venues: Sly Grog Lounge, The Odditorium, Asheville Guitar Bar
While some people get thrown off by this one, Asheville’s music presence has an impressive reputation. Like Nashville, it’s a city well known for high quality beer and food; and as a result this drives a steady demand for live music. In addition to the artist venues listed, many great musicians have played shows on the nationally renowned Orange Peel stage. Asheville is also famously known for hosting electronic music festivals and events, so this may be the perfect move for musicians looking to tap into the roots of EDM music.
Although you can create music from any city, it can be beneficial to consider relocating to a place allowing for more opportunity. If a move is financially reasonable and any of these cities hit the mark for what you’re looking for, I would recommend trusting your gut and going all in. It’s usually not something you regret when deciding to fully commit to chasing your dreams, and each of these cities have so much you’re able to learn from and utilize in order to develop into a more serious musician. If you think a move may be right for you, my hope is that this list assists you in discovering the next step of your musical journey!