There’s no denying it, some cities are far better for music than others. In fact, you may have heard the term “music city” been used before. This is a term that describes a city that has a strong appreciation for music, and backs up its artists, clubs and venues through government funding and through music-first initiatives.
Some cities may have a strong scene for music production, whereas other cities might have a growing live music scene — but whatever the reason, these cities love music and they aren’t afraid to show it. Here are just a few “Music cities” from around the world that would make a worth destination for the avid music fan.
If one were to think about the most known international music cities, Tokyo, Japan is probably not going to be top of mind. Perhaps it’s because of how far it is away geographically to most known music cities, or it could be due to the fact that the country has few well-known artists in mainstream western music culture. However, you might be surprised to know that the capital city of Japan has a flourishing music and arts community with some of the world’s finest music venues.
Surprisingly, physical album sales are still doing very well in Japan. People can’t seem to get enough CD’s, so much so that they make up 85% of physical sales in Japan. In fact, Tokyo is the only city in the world where a Tower Records shop exists. Tokyo is also home to many fantastic, smaller vinyl shops. Record shops have been popping up around the city for the past few years and have become a popular destination for music-loving tourists.
Tokyo is also home to many venues with the highest quality sound system in the world. What’s better is that to experience them you don’t need to spend a lot of money on an expensive arena ticket like the Budukan or Suntory Hall. Some of the city’s best venues are tiny clubs and cafes like VENT, Sound Museum Vision and Koara. It’s a good thing too, because you’ll need to save up a bit to afford the flight overseas.
Seattle will forever have a place on this list for it’s many contributions in rock music history. The Emerald City is the place where many groundbreaking artists in the late 80s and 90s got their start. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam all started their careers here; even Jimi Hendrix got his start as a young artist, born in the Seattle area in the 40s.
With bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana growing international recognition, Seattle became known as the birthplace of the grunge scene in the mid-80s. Around that time, local record label Sub-Pop helped facilitate the grunge movement, signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney and other major artists in the genre to their roster.
For the tourist, the Museum of Pop Culture has fantastic exhibits for Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix you can check out to learn more. Pro-tip: if you fly to Seattle, be sure to check out the Sub-Pop store in the airport and grab some merch.
Seattle is also home to KEXP, a fantastic radio station known for breaking many rising artists into mainstream culture. If they happen to have an artist in for a live session, be sure to attend and snap a few pics.
You’ve probably heard of Nashville being a Music City before, and not just because they made a TV show about it. The city has a rich history of music culture dating back to the civil war. Nashville’s legacy as a music city was written in 1925 at the launch of the radio station WSM, who would soon establish a weekly music program called the Grand Ole Opry. Still running to this day, the Grand Ole Opy is a weekly broadcast that puts the spotlight on new and emerging artists, held at the legendary Ryman Theatre.
Nashville is also known as the “Songwriting Capital of the World”. Musicians from all over the globe flock to Nashville to write, collaborate on and record music. Robert Plant, Black Eyed Peas, Kings of Leon and more international artists have chosen Nashville as the setting to record their albums.
The Bluebird Cafe is a popular destination for tourists and local music aficionados alike, where songwriters go to perform their music and share stories of their process.
Jazz, blues, R&B and soul music all have a unique place in New Orleans, Louisiana’s deep-rooted cultural history. You can’t walk far in this beautiful city without hearing the sounds of horns, drums and voices at the cities various bars, clubs, cafes and even street corners. Live music is everywhere you go, especially if you’re walking down Frenchmen Street in the Marigny Neighbourhood — a bohemian style section full of unique jazz clubs, french bistros and cajun restaurants.
Toronto is well on it’s way to becoming one of the most prominent music cities in the world. With a growing music scene full of folk, rock, rap, pop and blues artists, you’d be hard-pressed to any of the city’s many music cafes and venues empty on any given night.
The eyes of music fans have been turned to Toronto in recent years with the success of mainstream pop icons such as Drake, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes.
Toronto is home to legendary music venues like the Horseshoe Tavern and recently reopened El Mocambo, as well as a growing list of new smaller clubs to facilitate the booming indie scene. Toronto becomes a mecca for music for a couple weeks throughout the year with major Canadian music festivals like Indie Music Week, NXNE and Canadian Music Week all taking place in Toronto.