Best Places to Live

2012 10 Best Music Cities

Top 10 Cities With the Best Music Scenes Outside of Nashville NYC and LA

Photo: Adam Streur

Most music lovers know Nashville, NYC and L.A. are great places to indulge in their passion, but for this list, we explored other cities off the beaten path where they might feel just as at home.

So, these picks go beyond the benchmark industry towns like Nashville, with its 180 recording studios, 130 music publishers, 100 live music clubs and 80 record labels. To select them, we researched other music and travel media rankings and accolades about scenes, venues and record stores. Then we asked for more direction from musicians who've toured the country extensively and gave nominations and tips.

We found there's a lot happening musically outside the big industry centers, in cities attracting music fans and musicians seeking a change of pace or scenery.

Sometimes it's even the food that helps sway them (doesn't it always?). One of our sources, accomplished Nashville musician Chris Scruggs, nominated Asheville, NC: "It's the only city I'd want to live in other than Nashville. I really can't endorse that place enough. It's a big hub for the Olde Tyme and Bluegrass world and has tons of other awesome stuff there, too. And don't forget the biscuits at Tupelo Honey ... Mmmm."

Ultimately, while Asheville was a hot contender, it gets an honorable mention this time around (while we concede no one matches those biscuits).

From our 500 best places to live, we chose these cities for their combination of noted music venues – ranging from outdoor amphitheaters to sprawling honky tonks and pristine concert halls. Our picks have some of the best independent record stores, have produced household-name artists in a variety of genres and nurture current scenes to support rising stars.

"Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once,” wrote poet Robert Browning. So here are our Top 10 lesser-known locales where the music-minded won't feel a lonely moment.

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Ranking Criteria

National rankings for great venues, music scenes and/or record stores
Number and diversity of music venues
Number of independent record stores
Number of current and former residents who are noted musicians
Excluded known industry centers: Nashville, NYC, LA