Where America Rocks Out

Nashville? New York? Austin? L.A.? Fans love debating which city has America's best music scene. Richard Florida brings an analytical eye to the question by investigating America's leading centers for musicians and the music industry.
August 6, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Working with his Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander, Florida analyzes Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on the concentration of musicians and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis stats on music and recording industry business establishments, to develop a Metro Music Index identifying the country's geography of music. Although this quantitative analysis won't do much to resolve the question of which music scene is the best, Florida argues that his findings help "provide a powerful lens not only into popular culture, but into the mechanisms that power our increasingly idea-based and talent-driven economy."

Two of the top three metros - New York and L.A. - clearly benefit from the size of their markets, talent, and firms. However Nashville's place at the top of the index offers an interesting lesson. As Florida notes, "size is not everything, as Nashville's dominance and the performance of other smaller metros show.

"Smaller places can develop significant clusters of musicians and the music industry. The key here, as it is in so many other fields, is the clustering of talent, as talented musicians are drawn to and cluster around other talented musicians. Doing so, they generate a human capital externality of a musical kind - competing against each other for new sounds and audiences, combining and recombining with each other into new bands - a Darwinian process out of which successful acts rise to the top and achieve broad success."

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Published on Monday, August 6, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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