What is the Music Capital of the World?

music capital of the world

Today, we’re going to head around the globe and look for some of the contenders to the crown of music capital of the world. From the worlds of rock, rap and pop to classical and country, and everything in between, here are 10 of the best music cities (in no particular order).

10 of the Biggest Music Cities in the World

Manchester, UK

The UK has always had a thriving music scene and that continues to be the case to this day. While Liverpool brought us the Beatles and London boasts perhaps the best range of live music in Europe, Manchester is the city that has had the biggest influence on the UK music industry in recent decades. From iconic 80’s Manchester bands such as the Smiths and the Stone Roses to the anthemic sounds of Oasis, the city has produced some iconic artists and music is at the heart and soul of all things Mancunian.

Austin, USA

Austin, Texas, is the city most frequently referred to as the live music capital of the world. While it’s only the fourth largest city in the state, Austin is a mecca for music lovers with more than 250 live music venues ranging from coffeehouses and small bars to clubs and concert halls. Unlike some cities in this countdown, Austin isn’t particularly defined by one genre either with everything from folk, jazz and blues to indie and punk rock covered on its crowded live music calendar.

Nashville, USA

Staying in the US, Nashville is another place where music plays a huge role in defining a city’s whole identity and character. Right from the fiddle tunes played on the banks of the Cumberland River by Nashville’s earliest 18th Century settlers, music has been integral to Nashville life and it has earned the nickname “music city” in the US. The offerings aren’t quite as varied or diverse as in other places but country lovers flock to the city dubbed the country music capital of the world.

Berlin, Germany

Berghain Berlin
Berlin’s infamous Berghain club by Michael Mayer, CC BY 2.0

Changing the vibe a little, we head to Berlin where electronic music is king and the backdrop for all kinds of debauchery each weekend when the city’s old industrial factories and warehouses beat to the sound of pumping techno from dusk till dawn and often beyond. The story behind the rise of the techno scene in the once divided German city is a fascinating one and it was a big part of the cultural explosion that happened in the city following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The creative spirit lives on to this day with Berlin home to all kinds of quirky festivals and live music events.

Kingston, Jamaica

Over in the Caribbean, they move to a very different beat. Kingston lays claim to being the birthplace of six distinct genres in the shape of ska, rocksteady, dub, mento, dancehall and most famously reggae. That’s extraordinary for a relatively small city on an island of just three million people but Jamaican artists have played a huge role in the evolution of modern international music and their influences are felt far and wide. No visit to Kingston Town is complete without a trip to the Bob Marley Museum where you can learn about the life and times of Jamaica’s favourite son.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna is widely regarded as the classical music capital of the world and historically, it was certainly the music capital of Europe, although that title these days is more widely debated thanks to the rise of modern, contemporary offerings from various genres. The city’s grand old opera houses and theatres continue to serve up classical masterpieces and some of the most famous music of all time from the legendary Mozart who died in the city in 1791.

Bogota, Colombia

Something of an up and coming music destination is Bogota. The Colombian capital is experiencing something of a cultural rebirth and its music scene has an experimental vibe as Colombian and Bogota music tries to find its 21st Century identity. The city hosts more than 60 festivals throughout the year and has hundreds of live music venues catering to everything from salsa and rock to reggaeton and hip hop.

Melbourne, Australia

music capital of the world
Live music in Melbourne via a.canvas.of.light, CC BY 2.0

If the sheer number of musical performances is the metric by which we are judging, then Melbourne is the world’s music capital and it’s not even close. The Australian city hosted over 73,000 live performances in 2018, more than double that of its closest rival according to these figures via World Cities Culture Forum. With Australian music and arts also going through a real resurgence with some futuristic, upbeat sounds, the city is worthy of its status on the list although like many others, Melbourne’s live music scene has been severely impacted by the pandemic.

Atlanta, USA

Atlanta is another city emerging as a major centre for music and young artists as we head into the third decade of the 21st Century. It is best known for its thriving local hip-hop scene but the city has also produced some of the world’s biggest R&B artists. Right now, Lil Nas X who was born on the outskirts of the city, is one of the biggest musicians in the world and the latest big talent to come out of the Atlanta music scene.

Havana, Cuba

Over on the old streets of Havana, music and the sound of street bands and musicians continues to be the backdrop to daily life for many Cubans and visitors to the historic city. Virtually every bar and restaurant seems to have an in-house musician or band and for a country that was somewhat cut off from the outside world for much of the 20th Century, the offerings are surprisingly diverse with a mixture of African and Spanish influences helping form the sound of Havana.

Is there a true Music Capital of the World?

While many of these cities have reason to think of themselves as the world’s music capital, it’s hard to pick just one standout. Many specialise in just one or two distinct genres which won’t necessarily cater to everyone.

Austin’s claim is strong given the wide range of offerings in the city’s live music scene but somewhere like London, which doesn’t even feature above, could argue that it has a busier live music calendar with more regular performances from top artists. Focus on the actual production of top musical talent and each city’s global influence and the answer would be different again.

Perhaps it’s best to leave it by saying that these are all fantastic musical cities in their own right and music lovers will want to try and get to as many of these as possible during their lifetimes.

This article was published in November 2021.


What is the Music Capital of the World?

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