The Biggest Music Cities In The US You Didn’t Know About Till Now

By Brendan van Son,

We already know of the most popular places in the US for music: Chicago, New York, Austin and New Orleans are mainstays of the American music scene. The cities I’ve mentioned in this guide aren’t necessarily small towns, but rather places you should visit if you have a passion for music and are great places to discover emerging artists and new sounds.

The Big Little Sister of Seattle

Portland Oregon Music Scene

High energy & a thriving local scene. Photo by Anni Becker CC BY

The city of Portland, Oregon,  is often overlooked thanks to the fact that grunge music finds its historical home just north in Seattle, Washington.  Far too often in the shadow of their northern sister city, Portland not only brings in some of the biggest artists in the world to play shows at venues like the legendary Crystal Ballroom, but the city has also produced its own fair share of big names; Elliott Smith, the Decemberists and the Dandy Warhols all hail from Portland.

Motown is Hip and Hoppin’

Music scene in Detroit

Detroit’s art and music scene is thriving once again. Photo by Michael Patterson CC BY

It might be a bit unfair for me to claim Detroit to be an underrated music city in America.  However, the truth is that the city has lost much of its music fame over the past decade or two.  The city has tumbled a long way since its Motown music days.  However, there has been a new scene rising in Detroit led by the infamous Eminem.  He’s not alone though, artists like the White Stripes, and Aaliyah also come from the city.  Moreover, Detroit suburb city Flint has recently become a hub for hip-hop artists, proving there’s still plenty of musical talent left in Michigan.

Where Elvis sang the Blues

Memphis music scene

Memphis might surprise you- even if you don’t think you like the blues! Photo by Mr.Littlehand CC BY

Another one of those cities in America that gets overshadowed by its neighbors is Memphis.  Being just a couple of hours from music city giant Nashville and not far from New Orleans will do that to a city.  However, to discount the music scene in Memphis would be a huge mistake.  Of course, this is the home of the Blues, and one the most famous artists of the past century – Elvis.  Today, there is still a thriving jazz and blues scene.  The most notable artists to come out of Memphis of late are Justin Timberlake, Isaac Hayes, and Three 6 Mafia.

Growing all sorts of music seeds

St.Louis music scene

St. Louis has something for every type of music lover. Photo by Dave Herholz CC BY

St. Louis has one of the fastest growing music communities in all of America right now and is pumping out some great bands of all genres.  Of course, the genre most notable to come out of St. Louis of late is the hip-hop vibe created by Nelly.  Other notable hip-hop artists to have come out of St. Louis recently include J-Kwon and Chingy.  There are a fair number of emo and alternative bands to have come out of the city recently as well including Story of the Year, So they Say and Brendan Kelly.

The one that’s the most underrated

Akron music scene

Possibly the most underrated music city in the USA. Photo by The Zender Agenda CC BY 

Akron might be most famous for the likes of LeBron James, but it’s also one of the most underrated music cities in America.  It’s funny to say that a city that has produced the performers like The Black Keys and James Ingram could remain underrated, but it most definitely doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.  Akron is home to one of the country’s best Garage Rock scenes, and has taken on similar feeling to that of Seattle in the ‘90s.

The New Austin

Texas music scene

Denton is buzzing with music these days. Photo by Rich Anderson CC BY

In Texas, it’s Austin that gets most of the recognition as a music destination.  However, 50 miles north of Dallas it’s the city of Denton, Texas that’s quickly gaining steam as a must-stop destination for American music lovers.  Home to the University of North Texas, Denton has a similar college-town vibe to that of Austin with a similar flair for nightlife and music.  Of the famed artists that have come out of Denton over the past couple decades are several you’ll surely know: Meat Loaf, The Riverboat Gamblers and Bowling for Soup all came out of this North Texas city.

Where the rap game is bigger than the country scene

Nashville music scene

Nashville is teeming with unknown music. Photo by Paula Lively CC BY

Before you go all mental calling me crazy for adding Nashville to my list of “underrated” music cities in America, hear me out.  Sure, everyone knows of Nashville as the home to country music.  But what many people don’t realize is that it’s also home to one of the most underrated rap and hip-hop communities in the country.  Yes, Nashville is one of the most talked about music cities in America–however, the rap scene remains entirely underrated.


What are some other underrated musical cities in America?