You need a car, there's way too many malls, the bars close early, and the neighbors are known to tattle on house shows. But yet Los Angeles is actually the music capital of the country, according to hard data!
According to the just-released study by Richard Florida — an Atlantic editor and freaking guru when it comes to all things urban and creative — Los Angeles has the most musical acts of any city in the United States, not to mention the most per capita.
Florida explains that his research team got their data from MySpace in early 2007 (a time when the site was actually quite relevant). His team gathered info on more than three million musicians and found that L.A. had the most acts in the country — 175,083, beating the larger New York City by about 60,000.
And after adjusting for population, L.A. was still number one, with 184 acts per 10,000 people, better than Napa California, of all places, with 183.
Pretty cool, but not necessarily the biggest surprise. Despite our overall reputation as a cultural wasteland, Los Angeles has long been recognized as one of the most important music cities in the country.
We're home to major labels like Capitol Records as well as young and daring indie labels. Our history includes the iconic Sunset Strip, the gangster rap from Compton, and “alternative rock” 90's staple Rage Against the Machine. The Beach Boys, Katy Perry, and Tom Petty have all romanticized California as a place filled with hot easy chicks, while Best Coast and The Decemberists make L.A. sound like a magical hipster land, and Odd Future now brings tourists to the Fairfax District.
Like other big cities, we have massive stadiums for multi-platinum pop stars to sell out, seedy bars with small stages and abandoned warehouses that are used for raves and other underground shows. Want to go see a big show? There's FYF Fest, the Eagle Rock Music Festival and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, among many, many others, and if you want to learn to play peep the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, whose founder is Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Both our poverty-stricken neighborhoods and our gated communities have become sources of musical inspiration. And, there's lots of overlap with the film and television industries, where indie rock among other genres have found a toe-hold.
Indeed, Florida broadly points to a proximity to “the most well-developed music industries” as the main determining factor in how popular a city is for bands.
Less obvious, and what he doesn't mention, is that for starving artists, Los Angeles can be downright affordable, at least comparatively. New York City is filled with hip, artsy neighborhoods like Williamsburg, SoHo and Tribeca, but they've all become extremely expensive over the years, pushing some of the artists and half-employed musicians out in place of bankers (though Bushwick in Brooklyn is known for still for being cheap and artist-friendly).
By comparison, L.A.'s main hipster neighborhoods (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Koreatown, the Arts District) remain relatively inexpensive, and there's more space in the apartment to fit your band equipment.
There's also California's famous laid-back attitude, where it's more socially acceptable to ditch the corporate world and instead play music on the beach all day, supporting yourself with odd jobs.
Despite the good that comes with being a creative center, there's also a nauseating element to all this; we attract a lot of fame whores, and that includes musicians. Many artists still move to L.A. expecting to be discovered by Someone Important, get played on the radio and become rich. This mentality has helped promote the pay-to-play clubs. But like all cities L.A. has both those who only hang out at the most obvious, touristy destinations, and the urban pioneers who discover new places, and new neighborhoods are constantly becoming trendy.
See also: Why Highland Park Is the New Echo Park
Or you can ignore the traditional club/bar circuit all together and find a d.i.y space.
There are an endless amount of non-traditional, under-the-radar spaces to see shows in LA. The choices range from house venues like HM157, galleries like performance art space Human Resources (where No Age played this summer), and under-the-radar dance parties at Freak City.
So yes, we can anecdotally confirm the results of Florida's survey. L.A. does indeed seem to attract a lot of musicians, and if you're one of them, you'll probably like it on the West Coast.
We don't want to oversell our fair city though, or we might end up with more jaded songs like Frank Black's “Los Angeles,” in which he sings: “I want to live in Los Angeles/
Not the one in Los Angeles/ Counting helicopters on a Saturday night/The symphony of the fair light.”
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