But despite the fact that we can instantly listen to music coming out of Mexico City or Fairfield, Iowa, locality still fights against global cultural homogenization - and it’s a good fight. Music remains a way to share our diverse subcultural identities. Which leads me to the main point: consumption trends are ever more essential to music making in the digital age.
So which cities are laying down the law?
A clue: not NYC or LA.
Conrad Lee and Pádraig Cunningham of the Clique Research Cluster, University College Dublin, just put out a study mapping the geographic flow of music. They used the social media website last.fm to get a detailed snapshot of what its users in hundreds of cities listen to each week. The results?
If you want to know about music - look to Atlanta. If you are more into indie music, look to Montreal. According to Lee and Cunningham, here are the top five tastemakers in North America:
Top five for all music:
Top five for hip hop:
Top five for indie music:
3. Los Angeles
The three main findings of the study:
Some cities are consistently early adopters of new music (and early to snub stale music).
Although many of the most popular artists are listened to around the world, music preferences are closely related to nationality, language, and geographic location.
Of course, there are real limitations to the study. Analyzing Spotify, Grooveshark, YouTube, and iTunes might yield very different results. The authors call the paper “a work in progress.”
But perhaps the best detail of this study - the one that makes you miss thinking up ways to make writing that undergrad social science paper less excruciating - is in the methodology. The researchers employed the same methods used to study the leadership network in a flock of birds. And it actually worked.
Check out the full paper and see if your city is on the music flow map.