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The Most Popular Music Genre By State: The Music America’s Listening To

We took a whole lot of data and calculated America's music preferences to fine the most popular music genres around the continental U.S.

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166 articles, 142 comments

Music preferences can tell you a lot about a person or, in this case, a city. That’s because music choices aren’t just about music. They’re about fashion, philosophy, and lifestyle, too. Inspired by recent coverage of the geography of music scenes, we decided to map out music preferences across the US.

How’d We Do It?

We calculated musical taste scores using data from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (via the Martin Prosperity Institute) and state level music preferences from Wikipedia. The scores include music genre preference survey data and genre performer concentrations by metro, weighted by that metro’s influence on the music scene. We took the scores for each metro and used a spatial statistics method called nearest neighbors to create the heatmap.

Everybody Wants to Rock

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User marfis75

If you like to rock, Los Angeles, New York City, Minneapolis, and New Orleans are the places for you. Rock was a top choice for people in most regions, but it’s got its strongest grip on these four cities.

Country Music Isn’t Just a Nashville Thing

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User pasotraspaso

Grab your boots and get ready for a road trip. Love for country music isn’t confined to Nashville anymore. Nevada, Texas, and Florida also have hankerings for honky tonk. Dallas, Austin, Tampa, Orlando, and Las Vegas, all listed country music as one of their favorite genres, second only to rock and roll.

EDM is about to Take the Country by Storm

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User Gerardo Lazzari

EDM is one of the few genres that doesn’t include Los Angeles as a hub (yet). Instead, the EDM scene is happening just a bit north of LA, in San Francisco. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, New York (host to festivals like Electric Zoo) is where EDM preferences are strongest. The data also shows EDM emerging as a strong preference in Miami (where the Ultra Music Festival began in 1999 and very quickly picked up steam), Chicago, and Milwaukee.

Even Minneapolis and Seattle like Rap

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User Joe Crimmings Photography

We expected to see rap in New York, LA, and Miami, but we were surprised to see it in Minneapolis and Seattle. We should’ve guessed; both of these cities have a thing for hip hop and a hometown act to stand behind. Seattle adores its Macklemore, while Minneapolis-based Atmosphere has been a long-time Minnesota favorite.

If You Want to Rock Hard, Go West

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User Kris Krug

Punk is also a favorite all along the West Coast and in Nashville, Orlando, and Rochester. For those who prefer something heavier, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee are where the most metalheads are located.

Las Vegas Loves Alt/Indie Music

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User aviddichterman

Anyone alive in the 1990s won’t be surprised to see Seattle atop the alternative music list, though Las Vegas and Austin love alternative, too. Meanwhile, most indie fans are spread across the West Coast and are heavily concentrated in California

Bluegrass & Folk Fans aren’t Where You’d Expect

The Music America's Listening To

Source: Flickr User Jamison Wieser

Looking for some American acoustics? Portland is home to the biggest bluegrass fandom, and Las Vegas is where you’ll find folk music going strong. If the sweet sounds of jazz are more your style, you’re in luck. There are fellow hepcats on both coasts, in New York City and Portland, Oregon.

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Favorite Genres by City

Nashville, Tennessee

Source: Flickr user jimbenttree

You’ll find more than cowboy hats in Nashville these days. The blues, gospel, and jazz are also among the city’s most popular genres.

New York, New York

Source: Flickr User Scott Hudson

New York is a huge city with very diverse tastes. Rock and blues topped its list of favorites, while soul and punk were at the bottom.

Los Angeles, California

Source: Flickr user Ryan Vaarsi

LA has the second-highest concentration of country music fans, but rock is its favorite by far. Like New York, LA music preferences were pretty diverse.

San Francisco, California

Source: Flickr user runner310

Jazz and EDM showed up much higher on the list of San Francisco favorites than they did in other cities, but neither outranked rock and blues.

Seattle, Washington

Source: Flickr user dherrera_96

Seattle shares the same music preferences as many Americans, but it has a special love for rap, alternative, and punk.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Source: Flickr user Bert Kaufmann

Las Vegas is home to the highest concentration of folk fans in the U.S. and an especially low concentration of rap fans.

Portland, Oregon

Source: Flickr user Kables

Portland rates jazz and bluegrass among its favorite music genres and shares Las Vegas’ dislike for rap music.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Source: Flickr User ~MVI~ (warped)

Gospel, jazz, blues, and rock are among some of the most popular genres in New Orleans.

Minneapolis, MN

Source: Flickr user kla4067

Just like New Orleans residents, people in Minneapolis also enjoy gospel, jazz, and blues. Rap, country, and rock are also pretty popular.

Miami, Florida

Source: Flickr user 2Bekka27

Miami makes our list as one of the emerging hotspots for EDM. It also enjoys a lot of rap, rock, and blues music.

Chicago, Illinois

Source: Flickr user Bert Kaufmann

Chicago has an especially strong penchant for rock music, but Chicagoans enjoy jazz music, too.

Austin, Texas

Source: Flickr user Adriano Aurelio Araujo

Like Seattle, Austin rated punk and alternative music more highly than most and generally has pretty diverse tastes.

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posted on: April 15, 2014
217,190 views, 25 comments


  1. Jamie

    This is pretty dang awesome! Its like a weather map for musical preferences.. Well done!

  2. particle_person

    I love the idea, but I’m red/green color-blind and reading this map was extremely difficult for me. I wish you had chosen ANY other set of colors.

  3. Bagheera

    I digress about Miami. All it’s heard here is gangsta crap, hip-hop crap, bachata crap, reggaeton crap, Latino crap and miraculously some Electronic (mostly in South Beach).

  4. Viggen

    Two thoughts about this map. First, it reflects population density as strongly if not more strongly than musical taste as a function of location. The map needs to be deconvolved from population density somehow to give an accurate representation –for one thing, I don’t give a damn about what musical preferences exist in California, everything is more popular there than anything is where I live because more people are there, period. Not like people don’t listen to music here. Second, why is Pop called “popular” music? Clearly, if these maps are accurate, pretty much everything is more popular… I’m asking this because it makes no sense to me why stars like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are making so much more money than artists that people are apparently more interested in listening to. I suppose that it could be a radical, foam-at-the-mouth minority that is supporting them.

  5. Drewsky

    Why does everyone always leave out Hawaii and Alaska?

  6. Danny

    I think this is very cool. but I am curios about your census data. Only because I am from South Florida, and i feel the data regarding Latin music must off, there should be a much higher concentration of Latin fans here. I mean the Latin Billboards are filmed in Miami.
    who answered the survey? were there many votes at all from south florida? could it also be because the magazine who conducted the survey doesnt have a strong readership here?

  7. danny

    Also found the same to be true with EDM and Metal/Hardcore. I am not in to latin or EDM but, Ultra Festival is here and so is the Winter Music conference.
    Again, I think this might not be the best representation, due to pour response to the there a possibility of response?

  8. infinity The artist


  9. Gregory Kohs

    What in the heck are “state level music preferences from Wikipedia”?

  10. ...

    How is pop and hip hop not hot everywhere in the U.S? Maybe it’s just because I’m a high school student but it seems like those two genres are easily the most popular in Virginia, and the map shows Virginia as not being particularly big on either of those.

  11. Dennis

    Judging from this map, Latin music isn’t popular in Miami.

  12. Nicole Barry

    Don’t play the map. It endlessly plays and is the worst music. Wow money well endowed!

  13. ryan

    You guys clearly took no data whatsoever on this. The entirety of your country gets a mild green on every single one except to highlight california and new york primarily. It seems like you’re trying to say the entire midwest listens to nothing but blues and country.

    • Carol in response to ryan

      Too bad you left out classical music. How can you call it a survey without it?

  14. Cherwyn Ambuter

    How in the world could you leave out the world-revered genius and brilliance of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Rossini, Puccini, Mahler, Berlioz, Bernstein, Ravel, Debussy, Carter, Pärt, Fauré, Tchaikovsky, Josquin, von Bingen, Dufay, Händel? Does classical music not have any existence that needs acknowledging anymore? No one likes ballet, the opera, or orcbestra music anymore? This map is very sad for having left out the music with the very most longevity of all. I was so disappointed after eagerly looking here to see where classical music is most popular, and finding it not even acknowledged as being around. Way to marginalize and forget our musical roots, guys!

    • Ann in response to Cherwyn Ambuter

      For me, music IS classical. The genres above are mostly passing fashions which have more to do with lifestyle and image and may or may not still be played in 100 years time. Why leave out the greatest music?

    • Jim in response to Cherwyn Ambuter

      Did you really expect an Internet survey to have any hint of statistical rigor or scientific basis? : )

  15. Ruviansh

    Hi Chris,
    Cool idea…looks like a definite start. May be you would want to assess your parameters for the heat map more clearly.
    Cuz popn density and wikipedia info might not be always be trustworthy. Also i would suggest an interactive infograph may be over the course of some time.

  16. James

    That jazz you play is not jazz…it’s elevator music. Real jazz has a beat, virtuoso playing and excitement. You don’t know what jazz is.

  17. Sendron

    So you “took a whole lot of data” to calculate America’s preferences. With such statistical rigor, no wonder this is a such a mess.

    And why no classical music? Classical music has been around for 600 years. Some people must like it.

  18. Sal

    Chris, I am going to speculate that the reason you completely ignored classical music is that music courses were eliminated from your school’s budgets when you were growing up, so you’d have no way to know about it? (This is not a snarky comment–I’m completely serious.)

  19. dennis

    This is a pointless article. Surveying 12 cities hardly makes this a comprehensive enough study to tell us what “America” is listening to or interested in. More than half the country is left in the green on all categories because they didn’t even bother conducting this “study” there. Telling us what music is listened to in Nashville tells us nothing about Atlanta or Jackson. Telling us what music is listened to in New York tells us nothing about Washington, DC or Baltimore. LA doesn’t speak for San Diego, Las Vegas doesn’t speak for Phoenix, etc. etc. What a waste!

  20. Skewed

    Los Angeles/Socal is an EDM hub. Where do you think EDC (the biggest EDM massive) came from? Las Vegas? Lol. the midwest is another massive EDM hub, where do you think Daft Punk first played in the US in the 90s? It was in the midwest! Where do you think Techno and House stem from? San Francisco? Yeah right! Chicago, Detroit! This data is not scientifically correct, at all.

  21. Quora

    Is listening to country music in the US a shameful or cool thing?

    The chances of it being one or the other change depending on where in the US you are. That is, if you’re in the South, you’ll probably fit in well if you prefer country or bluegrass music to other genres. New England, though, maybe not so much. Here…


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