Sonic city: the evolving economic geography of the music industry

From Journal of Planning Education and Research

While musicians can come from anywhere, they migrate over time. This research finds the music industry has become significantly more concentrated. In the US, New York and Los Angeles remain dominant locations with Nashville emerging in third place. There has been a tendency for musicians to cluster in search of inspiration and mutual learning, labeled as a “music scene”. However in this modern age there are good reasons for geographical spread. Musicians tour and travel to perform, with the rise of the Internet, social media, and digital distribution of musical content there is little need to be tied to a specific music center. The article examines the powerful forces that will continue to push and pull the geographical movement of the industry.

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Our research tracks the location of musicians and music establishments in U.S. regions from 1970 to 2004. We find that the music industry has become significantly more concentrated over time. New York and Los Angeles remain dominant locations, with Nashville emerging as a third major center. This reflects the economic and artistic advantages of large markets. We also find evidence of the persistence of musicians and music scenes in some smaller locations throughout the United States. This reflects demand for music in some small locations with more affluent, higher-human capital populations, location-specific assets, and technological changes that have lowered the costs for producing, distributing, and consuming music across locations.

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Article details

Florida, R., & Jackson, S. (2009). Sonic City: The Evolving Economic Geography of the Music Industry Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29 (3), 310-321 DOI: 10.1177/0739456X09354453

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