Best cities for live music and why trying to define the indefinable is a waste of time

Africa Oye 2017 from the crow's nest

Africa Oye 2017

As a new survey tries to determine what are the best cities in the world for live music Getintothis’ Ryan Craig casts his own personal reflection upon the topic.

Up to much this weekend?
The standard, single most quintessential question you hear every Friday afternoon in the workplace without doubt.
In fact, I believe it’s borderline illegal not to ask. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard those five words at least 1,573,894 times before and it’s often used more times than not for the sake of small talk as opposed to genuine curiousity. But every so often, believe it or not, an actual conversation can arise from such a mundane query.
The proof of such conversations?
Look no further than just last week when the topic of music came up with my newfound work colleagues. When asked the classic line, my default response of heading out to see some new bands had clearly piqued an interest. A poor attempt at socializing was enough to open up an onslaught of further questions, and with a few twists and turns I found myself in a battle of Liverpool vs Manchester music venues. An infamous rivalry had been reignited.
I argued on behalf of the Baltic Triangle, The Kazimier, Buyer’s Club and Liverpool’s new Ten Streets project. My opponent flew the flag for Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, Northern Quarter and poked fun at how the bigger artists of the world seem to choose Manchester over Liverpool for their tours. A petty jab.
We all know it’s because the Manchester Arena is bigger, right!?
All in good jest, of course. In reality, the two cities have more in common than perhaps the citizens of either may think- or even wish to believe.
In a recent Guardian article entitled quite aptly, Liverpool and Manchester are closer than they like to admit, writer Kevin Sampson delved into just how much and how significantly both cities contributed to the musical scene. Old news, sure. This not unknown by any stretch of the imagination.
Yet, it’s the finer details that he outlined which offer an insight – the Irish ties and influences, the post-World War II music explosion, the fact that the two cities were virtually unknown to one another until the 1830s, and less than two centuries later, both now equal powerhouses for live music culture.
With a near hour long commute giving more than enough time to dwell on the exchange, the question emerged – just what are the best cities for live music?

Is there a North vs South divide in music?

Thanks to the power of the Internet for having all the world’s information at our fingertips, simply searching “best cities for live music” reveals pages upon pages of results. About 28,100,00 of them.
Most are opinions from writers who simply enjoyed a certain city over another. Others, a collection of cities that have become synonymous with a certain brand of music. One site even believes it has found the definitive calculation to resolve just what are the best live music cities.
We quote:
We found music venues within 10 miles of each city listed and divided this by the square mile urban area of the city to give a comparable figure. We also divided the number of gigs by the number of venues in order to provide a comparable figure there as well. Each of the resulting metrics, as well as the average cost of a gig, were given a score out of 10. Each city’s scores were then combined into a weighted index to allow them to be ranked.
Rather elaborate, I admit. But definitive? Hmm.
The argument seems to be quantity rather than quality here. Cities in the USA make up half of the Top 10, probably down to their huge area, as the list contains the likes of Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta and Chicago. In this list it’s Liverpool who take the prize of third place. Quite a feat to rise above our nations golden boy that is the City of London which was ranked at ninth.
However, it is the city of love (and live music, apparently) that takes the number one spot – Paris.
The French capital and its mix of an abundant electronic scene and general desire for live music generates over 2000 gigs a year, with the average gig ticket setting you back around £39.58. Looks like you’d need to be friends with Bernard Arnault to even see even just a fraction of those yearly gigs.
But is any of this information even relevant to what really makes a city the best for live music? A city’s live music scene shouldn’t be based solely on ticket prices or how many music venues it has, surely.
What good are 100 different music venues each full of the same, monotonous, skinny-jeaned, generic guitar bands?
What it should be based on is the community’s acceptance and willingness to support local, upcoming, promising talents from all genres, backgrounds, genders and ethnicities.
Fortunately, we have just that in Merseyside. With the launch of Liverpool’s first weekly night of Grime, Sound City returning to its roots with having the city streets as its backdrop, Liverpool Music Week, the new Ten Streets project, Africa Oyé and much, much more we are free to indulge in a wide variety of music of quite frankly, dazzling proportions. Liverpool is by no means short of musical culture, and it can be seen in all it does.
In short, this is why Liverpool should be and is on the list and this is why we here at Getintothis are proud to scream and shout about the newest bands and artists, repeatedly championing the unfamiliar and fresh and backing those vital independent venues and promotors that makes this city special.
So…are you up to much this weekend?