Top 10 Cities For Emerging Music

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.34.23 PMGuest Post by  Jason Schellhardt, Rukkus.comThis post originally appeared on noiseporn.com

For most intents and purposes, the music industry is constrained to New York City and Los Angeles. While both cities have rightfully established themselves as the leading musical locales, there are a number of up-and-coming cities with their own scenes that are worth keeping an eye on. Here is your guide to the top 10 best emerging cities for music.

1. Austin

Austin City Limits Music Festival - Day 2

Hailed as the live music capital of the world, Austin has become one of the most important cities in the music industry. The city is home to two of the USA’s largest music festivals (SXSW and Austin City Limits) and seemingly every structure in Austin has a stage. Beyond its bona fides as a live music town, Austin is also home to an impressive crop of local artists like Shakey Graves, Ghostland Observatory, Wild Child and many more.

2. Toronto


Before it was the city that Drake built, Toronto was home to legendary rockers Rush and Neil Young. Over the past 10 years or so, there has been an explosion of diverse talent coming from the T.O. There is an impressive contingent of heavy bands like Death From Above 1979 and METZ, as well as a wealth of electronic/experimental artists like The Weeknd, Crystal Castles and deadmau5. Keep an eye out for more emerging talent from this Canadian gem.

3. Nashville


Nashville has long existed as the mecca of country music, but we are more interested in the city’s indie rock scene that is quickly becoming one of the best in the country. The city is home to Jack White’s Willy Wonka-esque Third Man Records, and other artists like The Black Keys and Kills have relocated there as well. More recently, garage bands like JEFF the Brotherhood, Diarrhea Planet and Those Darlins have made a lot of noise, and staked their own claim to the new Music City.

4. Madison

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This may be one of the most unassuming entries on the list, but the state capital of Wisconsin has an unexpectedly rich music scene. A 2010 study by Songkick shows that Madison, WI, places second in the number of concerts per capita, bested only by Austin. The majority of legendary producer Butch Vig’s music career has taken place in Madison, and Justin Vernon hails from just three hours away in Eau Claire. Vernon alone can account for an impressive list of projects including Bon Iver, Shouting Matches, and Volcano Choir.

5. Brooklyn


This one may be pretty obvious, but there are so many sub-scenes in Brooklyn that constantly keep the borough among the most interesting scenes in the country. Specifically, the current indie/garage rock scene has seen a major revival. That is more apparent than ever with the second annualGigawatts Festival on the horizon. Bands like Team Spirit, Honduras and Dances are not reinventing the wheel, but they are certainly breathing new life into a once prosperous genre.

6. Montreal


Much like Toronto, this Canadian city has been producing some huge acts from a variety of different genres. Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade have paved the way for the city’s indie-rock community, but Montreal’s EDM scene is one of the best in the world. Adventure Club, A-Trak, Lunice, Grimes and Chromeo all got their start in Montreal, and there is a ton of young talent on deck waiting to carry on the city’s legacy.

7. Chicago


Chi-town lands on this list mostly for its current hip-hop scene. The so-called “Drill” movement has become the latest wave to really gain traction in the hip-hop underground. While Chief Keef has been a polarizing force at best, artists like Lil’ Durk, Katie Got Bandz and Lil’ Reese have helped put their scene on the map. Outside of drill music, rappers like Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa continue to boost Chicago’s profile as a premiere hip-hop destination.

8. Washington, D.C.


Beyond the monuments and tourist traps, the nation’s capital has become home to a thriving electronic/indie-pop scene. Local DJs Nadastrom and Tittsworth are often cited as creating the wildly popular Moombahton scene at the U Street Music Hall. That venue has helped to created a tightly-knit community of local and international DJs. In addition to its EDM scene, D.C. has produced some impressive indie-pop bands like Misun, BRETT and GEMS.

9. Athens


Several miles east of Atlanta is a long-running hotbed of indie-rock that is often overlooked on a national level. Athens, Ga., is responsible for indie icons like the B-52s, R.E.M. and Neutral Milk Hotel, and jamband giants like Widespread Panic, Drive By Truckers and Perpetual Groove. Those two scenes have created an atmosphere that has spawned some awesomely strange experimental indie bands like Reptar and Futurebirds.

10.  Portland


Ah, Portlandia [Insert your hipster joke here]. With all of its pretensions, it makes sense that Portland is home to a brilliant indie-rock scene. With old stalwarts like The Thermals and The Decemberists and exciting newcomers like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Wampire, there are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the lovably strange city’s music scene.


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  1. Glad to see Portland on here! I’ve only been working in Portland for a few years now but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the growth of the local music and entertainment industries.

  2. Madison Wisconsin and Portland,OR really caught me by surprise. I had no idea that they were so up and coming. I’ll have to check both their scenes out for sure.

  3. Yay! Unknown Mortal Orchestra got a mention as one of Portlands biggest upcoming acts, just to clarify, Unknown formed in Portland, with an american from (or based) in Portland, but the rest are from New Zealand, Ruban Nielsen the frontman and founder is the former frontman of awesome Kiwi indie-punk “The Mint Chicks” .. Go NZ! Fat Freddies Drop,
    & Opiou also blowing up in US 🙂
    Btw, i am a New Zealander currently living in Melbourne, Australia.. Im surprised that Melbourne isnt in many “Worlds best musical cities” lists, considering that it has around 460+ music venues and not even 5 million population yet (metropolitan area), this city is absolutely insane for music of every genre! And its going to get even better with apartment developers now having to soundproof developments, saving venues, (while most cities lose theirs) and the very recent introduction of 24hr public transport on weekends, its been found out that live music alone in Melbourne contributes $1.6 Billion anually. Theres always something happening.

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