Remember that time you slashed your boyfriend’s tires for flirting with a bleach-blond tramp? Or when you went fishing to forget how much you miss your wife (the one you left)?
If those bluesy, downhome lyrics sound like your life’s story, then you probably love you some good ol’ country. But where are the best U.S. cities to live like you were dying?
Marking International Country Music Day this Sept. 17, LawnStarter ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Country Music Fans.
We compared over 180 of the biggest cities based on eight key factors, such as the number of country music festivals, access to performance venues, and the affordability of concert tickets.
We also gauged local interest in the genre based on Google search data, the number of country music stations, and even the existence of country music museums.
See which cities’ dirt roads lead to the top country music scenes below, followed by some highlights and lowlights
- City Rankings
- Highlights and Lowlights
- Surprising Findings
- Ask the Experts
- Behind the Ranking
- Final Thoughts
See how each city fared in our ranking:
|Overall Rank (1=Best)||City||Overall Score||Access Rank||Venue Quality Rank||Genre Interest Rank||Concert Affordability Rank|
|2||New York, NY||44.20||2||76||2||47|
|3||Salt Lake City, UT||32.51||3||50||47||34|
|12||Grand Rapids, MI||24.21||15||12||63||111|
|15||St. Louis, MO||23.64||6||103||37||139|
|18||Los Angeles, CA||22.66||69||90||3||58|
|20||San Francisco, CA||22.13||60||16||23||6|
|23||Baton Rouge, LA||21.98||16||48||87||121|
|31||New Orleans, LA||20.68||13||105||54||129|
|34||Kansas City, MO||19.80||33||66||46||102|
|38||Des Moines, IA||19.23||46||34||95||71|
|40||Grand Prairie, TX||18.86||168||1||155||97|
|48||Colorado Springs, CO||18.05||49||58||56||56|
|49||Fort Collins, CO||17.91||24||113||116||50|
|56||St. Paul, MN||17.38||71||28||52||62|
|58||San Diego, CA||17.10||97||43||15||39|
|59||Corpus Christi, TX||17.07||68||11||78||114|
|60||Las Vegas, NV||16.94||38||98||19||180|
|61||Fort Wayne, IN||16.86||103||4||80||119|
|67||Oklahoma City, OK||16.32||45||106||48||112|
|69||Fort Worth, TX||16.03||62||96||32||90|
|70||Little Rock, AR||16.01||54||89||64||63|
|72||San Antonio, TX||15.92||79||86||11||131|
|77||San Jose, CA||15.07||133||22||39||10|
|87||Long Beach, CA||14.08||122||9||67||84|
|96||St. Petersburg, FL||13.00||89||52||77||138|
|104||Fort Lauderdale, FL||11.70||88||108||71||92|
|120||Huntington Beach, CA||9.24||148||92||147||25|
|121||Sioux Falls, SD||9.15||87||121||130||106|
|124||El Paso, TX||8.99||137||82||49||149|
|126||Virginia Beach, VA||8.46||118||124||56||17|
|127||Jersey City, NJ||7.93||115||124||127||21|
|130||Cape Coral, FL||7.64||129||99||132||155|
|131||Santa Ana, CA||7.62||154||101||117||91|
|133||Overland Park, KS||7.26||130||124||70||11|
|138||Santa Rosa, CA||6.41||125||124||150||57|
|139||Santa Clarita, CA||6.35||138||124||113||32|
|141||Newport News, VA||6.15||126||124||141||66|
|167||San Bernardino, CA||3.96||128||124||144||160|
|168||Chula Vista, CA||3.81||181||124||139||52|
|169||Kansas City, KS||3.80||145||124||127||133|
|173||Garden Grove, CA||3.23||176||124||179||81|
Highlights and Lowlights
For the second year in a row, Nashville, Tennessee, topped our ranking charts as 2022’s unofficial Country Music Capital.
This outcome was really a foregone conclusion. After all, Music City is where country legends are born — and where many stay. Stars like Dolly Parton and Kacey Musgraves call the area home, so if you aspire to be the next Carrie Underwood or Morgan Wallen, Nashville is the place to put down roots.
In our ranking, Music City naturally dominated the Access and Genre Interest categories. No other big city has booked more acts for the next 2 years and Googled country music-related terms more times over the past 12 months.
Where Nashville could use a tune-up: Concert Venue Quality (No. 68) and Affordability (No. 116), though neither seems to have deterred fans. Despite the disappointing stats in these categories, Nashville scored an impressive 33 points higher than the next best country city, New York.
Our top 10 wouldn’t be right without at least one city from Texas, the Cowboy Capital of the World. After all, country music traces some of its roots to the Lone Star State, particularly its cowboy and cowgirl history.
And what better city to fill that spot than the Live Music Capital of the World? At lucky No. 7, Austin boasts a strong country music scene. Every year, the city hosts the popular iHeartCountry Festival featuring the biggest names in country music and the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Stats-wise, Austin’s biggest strength is Genre Interest at No. 5. Austin offers plenty of upcoming country concerts, too, placing 14th in this ranking factor. You won’t find a better Texas city if country’s your jam. Dallas comes the closest, at No. 26.
Country Hubs vs. Country Snubs
There are cities Dierks Bently might call “Risers.” Those include the biggest of the big cities that boot-scooted their way to the top of our ranking (or near it). Fringe cities, on the other hand, broke our hearts with their poor performances overall.
Newark and Paterson, New Jersey, for example, occupy two of the five worst spots, but they’re redeemed by their close proximity to silver medalist New York. In other words, these metro outliers don’t need to find their own voice in the country music scene.
It’s a similar story for other cities like Lancaster, California (No. 8 worst), which is sandwiched between two heavy hitters: iconic Bakersfield (No. 81) — dubbed “The Country Music Capital of the West Coast” and “Nashville West” — and Los Angeles (No. 18).
Our bottom cities include some literal outliers, too, mostly in Texas. Coming in last place is Brownsville, Texas, a city that’s more “country” than “country music.” Killeen (Me Softly) — pardon the irresistible pun — was last year’s worst but moved up one spot in 2022. This military city is known more for its fort than anything else.
Birthplace of Country?
New York is our first runner-up this year, displacing Las Vegas, our previous silver medalist, but does The Big Apple deserve a spot in our top 5?
The short answer is yes if for no other reason than a claim guaranteed to ruffle some feathers: that The Big Apple is the real birthplace of the genre — based on a technicality — not Bristol, Virginia, the Congressionally designated official birthplace of country.
In terms of performance, New York far outnumbered the competition in country radio stations — 24 in all, nearly double the number in Nashville (13). Gotham also will host the fourth-highest number of upcoming country concerts. Last and perhaps most unexpected, the city recorded the second-highest (population-adjusted) volume of Google searches for country terms.
Clearly New Yorkers can’t get enough country in the big city.
It wouldn’t be called “country” if all its fans were concentrated in one region. Although country music is heavily associated with the South, the all-too-relatable songs draw fans from all over America — even around the globe. According to the Country Music Awards, over 139 million listeners tune in to country from every part of the U.S.
Our top 10 alone reflects those trends. Half of those cities are still in the South, as expected, but the other five cover every other region. New York (No. 2) reps the North, Chicago (No. 6) the Midwest, and Denver (No. 10) the Mountain region. Eugene, Oregon (No. 9), stands in for the West Coast, while Salt Lake City (No. 2) shines for the Southwest.
Last year, the South made up the majority of our top 20, but many dropped position this year after we accounted for concert venue quality and concert ticket affordability.
You might even be surprised to learn that New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — in that order — took up some of the highest spots in average monthly Google searches for country terms.
Ask The Experts
Every now and then, country music finds a new sound just like all other genres.
To help you find what’s fresh and which classics pair well with the two-step, our panel of country music experts threw their voices into the conversation. See what they had to say below.
- What’s the new flavor of country music? What’s next?
- Where are the best places for country music fans to discover new songs or artists that will resonate with them?
- Who are some up-and-coming artists to watch out for? What makes them stand out?
- What’s the best country music song for line dancing — Boot-Scootin’ Boogie or Electric Slide or Achy-Breaky Heart — and why?
- What’s the best way to be introduced to country music? Which 10 songs or 10 artists would you include in an “intro” playlist?
What’s the new flavor of country music?
There is currently a modernization in the production of country music. While there is still a great deal of live music being recorded, there is also a fair amount of music that is being produced in home production studios, then brought to a recording to record the vocals and mix or master the track. This leads to a much wider variety of the types of music that are now labeled “country.”
While the lyrical content may be a storyline that would play well in a country music setting, sometimes the track tends to be a bit outside the organic sounds of how country music has been produced over the past several decades.
There is a great opportunity for unsigned artists and songwriters to showcase their material. The genre will evolve with the technology whereby more and more music will be produced that may be influenced by country music and perhaps create its own unique form of expression.
Where are the best places for country music fans to discover new songs or artists that will resonate with them?
The best places for country music fans to discover new songs or artists are on streaming outlets and social media platforms.
What’s the new flavor of country music? What’s next?
Country Music has many flavors. We’re digging the tunes that have a bit of a retro appeal, and it seems like the “new flavor” has some old roots creeping in. So, the fires are starting to burn with some old flame.
Where are the best places for country music fans to discover new songs or artists that will resonate with them?
Anywhere there’s music –– CMT Music Channel, Indie radio, music blogs, friends, any online music platform, and even soundtracks. Maybe up next, friends will have listening parties and listen to entire albums –– I’m open to an invite!
Who are some up-and-coming artists to watch out for? What makes them stand out?
Claudia Hoyser, Charlie Crocket, Ruston Kelly
They connect with solid songs and honest production.
What’s the best country music song for line dancing — Boot-Scootin’ Boogie or Electric Slide or Achy-Breaky Heart — and why?
Achy-Breaky Heart (I had to ask others!)
What’s the best way to be introduced to country music? Which 10 songs or 10 artists would you include in an “intro” playlist?
- The Gambler- Kenny Rogers
- Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell
- Jolene – Dolly Parton
- Ode to Billy Joe – Bobbie Gentry
- Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys – Willie Nelson
- Strawberry Wine – Deanna Carter
- I hope you Dance – Lee Ann Womack
- Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
- Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks
- The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert
Behind the Ranking
For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below.
We then grouped those factors into four categories: Access, Venue Quality, Genre Interest, and Concert Affordability.
Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category.
Finally, we averaged the scores for each metro across all categories. We eliminated eight cities lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a final sample size of 182 cities.
The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 182). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 182 due to ties among cities.)
|Metric||Weighting||Min. Value||Max. Value||Best|
|Country Music Concert Venues per 100,000 Residents||3||0.3||15.3||Max. Value|
|Number of Country Music Concerts||3||0||384||Max. Value|
|Number of Country Music Radio Stations||3||0||24||Max. Value|
|Average Rating of Country Music Concert Venues (Out of 5 Stars)||1||1||5||Max. Value|
|Share of Country Music Concert Venues Rated 4.5+ Stars||2||0%||100%||Max. Value|
|Average Monthly Google Searches for Country Music-Related Terms Over Past 12 Months||3||350||36,770||Max. Value|
|Number of Country Music and Related Museums||3||0||5||Max. Value|
|Average Ticket Price for Country Music Concerts (Income-Adjusted)||1||0.03%||0.11%||Min. Value|
Sources: Concerts50, Country Music on Tour, Google Ads, Indie on the Move, myTuner Radio, Taste of Country, and Wikipedia
Why is LawnStarter ranking the Best Cities for Country Music Fans?
First of all, we’re based in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, so that should clue readers in on our music tastes.
Our industry’s closer to the genre than most people think, too. Nothing epitomizes “country” more than yard work. Just this year, Josh Melton released his single “Cutting Grass,” and the title delivers on its promise — it’s a song about lawn care.
So, on International Country Music Day this Sept. 17, slather on the Coppertone, and enjoy mowing your grass while you listen to your favorite country hits. If you’d rather just enjoy the tunes, hire a local LawnStarter pro instead.
Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock