Take from a guy who traveled the world playing music on $2 a day, it can be done. The prospect of becoming a professional musician can seem daunting when given the economics of living in America. However, the internet has shrunk the world and where you live matters less now than ever. For many musicians, New York is the dream and as a native New Yorker, let me tell you that you will pay for the dream. I often find it hard to gather with other musicians to make music because everyone is working so hard just to pay the rent and keep living in New York. But the music must go on and if you have the soul of a musician and the budget of one too, let me present you with top 10 affordable cities for musicians today.
10. Los Angeles
Calm down and don’t spit your drink out. I’m picking L.A for a reason and to prove a point. While it is obviously not a cheap place to live, various cost of living calculators will tell you otherwise when you compare it directly with New York. The figure we will use for the rest of this article is to presuppose you make $50,000 a year in NYC. Which by the way, let me tell you, that won’t take you far. But utilizing various internet tools, I will tell you the commensurate salary you would need to make were you to move to one of our top 10 cities. And for L.A., that is but a mere $30,000. Are you beginning to see just how expensive it is to live in New York? But let us proceed.
Once again, you might be surprised. Not surprised that Seattle is an expensive city with a happening music scene in which to live, but just that it is so much cheaper to live in than New York. $28k would be the mark you would need to hit. However, we in the music world know much about the sounds which emerged from Seattle and there is no reason we can’t jump right into it ourselves at a New York discount.
That’s right, the various metrics tell us that if you made $50k in New York, you would need to make $25k to have the same standard of living. And much like L.A. and Seattle, Miami is no cheap place to live. However, the music scene is hard to deny. Mixed with Latin influence, hip-hop, and the Caribbean, there is a place for every musician in this city. From playing the local clubs, to the major music scene, you can get it done in Miami.
The magic number to make a similar living in Atlanta versus New York, $23,000 and we are starting to talk about serious discounts now. The Atlanta music scene might be best known for hip hop, but it is as eclectic as the music industry itself. Nestled in the South, it provides a major hub of music for small towns throughout the South as the kid with a rhyme or rhythm seeks to pursue a dream.
6. Salt Lake City
It is time to head out west and start getting to the true discounts with a cost of living comparison at $22k. Musicians come from all walks of life and all across America. And while the industry might be concentrated in a few key cities, the soul of music is not. Salt Lake City is a hub of life surrounded by dry lands and the music sense is no different. Find your rhythm here and stay close to the oasis of sound.
Big hats, big Texas, and big music. Take it from one who traveled Central America playing music, wherever such Latin music influences the American music scene, it is a win for music. From Cowboy to Mariachi, Austin is more diverse than you might imagine. And with a $22k cost of living comparison, it is quite affordable for the musicians who just want to hear that sound.
An endless line of kids seeking their fame in country music have made the leap to Nashville and it is hard to argue with its music scene. Clubs throughout the city beam with the next country music star and if you feel that to be you, it won’t be hard to make the leap. With a cost of living comparison at $20k, it makes Nashville one of the most affordable places to chase the dream. Consider Nashville the path to musical freedom at a cost that is over half less than the rest of the industry.
A short hop from Denver, consider this location a weigh station towards greatness. But also consider it a weigh station towards financial freedom. With a cost of living comparison at $19k, you can be crooning about the Rocky Mountains at night and then still writing music in the morning. With a surprising music scene for a smaller town, its proximity to Denver makes it a much more affordable option to live and still hit the bigger market. John Denver might never have sung about it, but I’m adding to my list.
Without a doubt, hands down, the biggest bang for your buck you will ever see. To get the economics out of the way, it rings in at $19k cost of living comparison compared to $50k in New York. It’s not even close. But lest you think I am just budget hopping here, let me remind you about Memphis. Home to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, STAX, and if you want to go more modern, yes, even Justin Timberlake, music oozes throughout Memphis as if it were water. There is no comparison when you consider you could almost live on a third of the income in Memphis, TN while exploring music in the home of the Blues. Music at its finest ladies and gentlemen.
1. Anytown, USA
Finally, the most affordable place for musician is wherever you are at. A key point I picked up while travelling the world with my piano is just how universal music is. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t wait until you get to New York to get serious about music. Because honestly, you will likely just spend your time busing tables to pay for living in the city where you finally plan to get serious about your music. Just pursue the sound, your sound. YouTube has made stars out of unassuming kids with a webcam and a grooving sound. The internet can make your sound travel to the ends of the earth before you even wake up in the morning. Pursue the music from the backwoods of Kentucky to the shores of the Pacific. Pursue the music and the rest, including your audience, will take care of itself.