What makes a city especially friendly to independent musicians looking to advance their careers? The obvious spots, like New York City or Los Angeles, aren’t the easiest places make any sort of dent. Not only are they overwhelmed with folks with the same aims but also they’re quite pricey, and when you’re struggling to make ends meet financially, you’ll ultimately lose time and energy that could be spent building your career.
The ideal cities for DIY musicians boast a balance of low-cost living and openness to independent music. Cheaper rent, a sense of community, fans and venues with a penchant for championing the underdogs – all of these things are important.
The five places we’ve picked offer all of that and then some. You can make music anywhere in the world, but in these environments, you’ll likely have more time to focus on music making and a more supportive network to receive the art that materializes.
1. Memphis, TN
Sun, Stax, and Volt Records undoubtedly earned the city its reputation as a powerhouse during the pioneering years of rock and soul, but Memphis’ rich music history reaches even further than that – Beale Street’s legacy as a blues and jazz hub actually dates back to the early 1900s. Few American cities rival its iconic status, and these days, not many can compete with its appeal for up-and-coming musicians, either.
Memphis continues to contribute incredible additions to rock ‘n’ roll today, thanks in particular to Goner Records, a garage and punk staple founded in 1993 and perpetually growing in prowess with its still-thriving storefront, incredible roster of label alumni, and annual blowout festival.
Hip-hop saw a boom in Memphis in the ’90s, and is mid-resurgence now with established acts like Yo Gotti, who hails from the northern side of town, at the genre’s current forefront. Couple that fertile creative landscape with average rent prices falling between $700 and $800 for single bedrooms – about 14 percent lower than the national average – and you’ve got prime conditions for up-and-coming artists who’d rather focus on their music making than concerns about high costs of living.