Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Nov 12th 2009 at 3:56pm UTC

Music Cities of North America


Digital technology from to a recording studio on your laptop means that music can literally be made and distributed anytime, anyplace, and anywhere.  But it is also clear that a great deal of music continues to come out of particular cities and their music scenes.

The graph below, from a new study from my colleagues at the Martin Prosperity Institute ranks the major music locations in the U.S. and Canada. Even before I moved to Toronto I was aware of the musical talent that comes out of Canada: from classic rockers like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to Rush’s brand of rock and pop stars like Nelly Furtado or indie darlings New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, and Feist. So our team at the Institute decided to see what the numbers might tell us about differences between the Canada and U.S. music industries.

The rankings are based on location quotients which gauge the relative concentration of music industry establishments, including record labels, distributors, recording studios, and music publishers.

Interestingly enough, half the top 15 cities are  Canadian. Still, the  United States is home to the two top-ranked cities – Nashville which is literally off-the-chart on this measure and Los Angeles, the center for global entertainment.  Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal all out-rank New York on this score. Atlanta makes the top 15 as do college towns like Austin and Madison, Wisconsin. U.S. establishments are  considerably bigger than their Canadian counterparts, with average receipts of $4.1 million per establishment, nearly eight times the Canadian average of $540,000. But, Canada in fact has about five times the level of music establishments after controlling for population, 5.9 music establishments per $100,000 compared to 1.2 for the U.S.

The full report is here.

14 Responses to “Music Cities of North America”

  1. Chris Blanchard (@LGM1) Says:

    Very fun stuff! Will be interesting to see a full report that breaks this down into specialty areas, e.g., Los Angeles for music marketing; Nashville for recording and song writing; Austin for live music venues. Lots of differences between all these towns and where they fit in the music food chain.

  2. b0rk Says:

    Why on earth would this post be tagged ‘Arcade Fire’?

    Is there the slightest indication that the clustering of music-industry economic activity described in this post is even slightly related to the ability of a city to ‘produce’ interesting bands like the AF? Is there any evidence that major record-industry clustering has any positive influence on the making of ‘indie darlings’?

  3. Wil Says:

    Seeing the San franciscoarea so low on the list makes me wonder about it’s accuracy. Marin County, accross the Golden Gate bridge is loaded with music legends and new performers.

  4. Kelly Franklin Says:

    Data from 2007 is two to three years old. The iPhone debuted June, 2007. How much has the music business changed since then?

  5. Allan Watson Says:

    These rankings based on location quotients are particularly interesting when compared to my latest work on the Global Urban Networks of Production for the US Digital Music Market (see In terms of producing the most successful output in terms of sales, and in terms of power in the urban networks of production, New York and Los Angeles far outstrip all other US cities, with Nashville only a secondary player despite the concentration of music industry establishments.

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  10. Matt LeGroulx Says:

    I’m assuming Montreal’s ranking takes into account the francophone scene and the festivals which would account for it’s #3 position. Since Montreal is the cultural capitol of Quebec and most french artists are based there I think it inflates Montreal’s standing a little. Certainly the anglophone music scene is not what it’s cracked up to be and the festivals, not least of which the Jazz Festival provide a false impression of Montreal’s musical vitality. For two weeks out of the year Montreal’s jazz scene is hopping, the rest of the time it’s a shell of what it used to be. Although, I suppose that would apply to most cities.

  11. Matt LeGroulx Says:

    Sorry, I should clarify a little bit. I’m not saying that the francophone scene doesn’t count, it’s just that there’s very little cross-pollination between scenes. An oil and water situation where the whole isn’t exactly what it appears to be.

  12. Ian Says:

    Yes Matt – these numbers capture all music businesses, including anglophone and francophone.

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  14. Colin Hall Says:

    It would be interesting to see this report compared to a average musician earnings report.