D.C. the Top City for Music Lovers? Nah.

A new Condé Nast Traveler feature has ranked D.C. as the top American city for “music lovers,” above New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Memphis, Detroit and more for the top spot. This ranking defies common sense and logic.

No doubt the District is a great place to be a music lover with venues like the 9:30 Club, the Kennedy Center, the Black Cat, the Historic Synagogue at Sixth & I, the Lincoln Theatre, the Howard Theatre, U Street Music Hall, Gypsy Sally’s, DC9 and Echostage, to name a few. D.C. is the home to great music genres like go-go and hugely talented musicians like the Foo Fighters, Fugazi, Thievery Corporation and, more recently, Paperhaus, Will Eastman – with a stable of young electronic acts he has helped raise – and Wale.

But Condé Nast only scratches the surface of that history. Here’s what they had to say about our city:

“Despite its staid reputation—or maybe because of it—the nation’s capital has fostered thriving underground music scenes for decades, including go-go (the funky genre’s driving force, Chuck Brown, was from D.C.) and hardcore, led by bands like Bad Brains and Fugazi. Today there are plenty of places to see live music in D.C., including legendary venues like Bohemian Caverns, where Miles Davis and John Coltrane once played; the 9:30 Club has hosted everyone from Arcade Fire to Rob Zombie. D.C.’s museums are also filled with music history: The National Museum of American History, for instance, has old cassettes and other pop-culture ephemera in its collection.”

Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Arcade Fire and Rob Zombie have nothing to do with D.C. other than that they got paid to play here once or maybe a handful of times. Also, why shout out Rob Zombie over pretty much every other major music act that has played at the 9:30 Club at some time or another?

Sure, “old cassettes and other pop-culture ephemera” are cool, but are they a reason that D.C. should be the number one city for music lovers in America? Absolutely not. Music lovers would probably prefer more local acts, more venues, more music festivals, more recording studios and more of an industry infrastructure to support all of that than technological artifacts.

D.C. is a great city for music lovers and should certainly make this list – and be proud to make it – but by putting the District at the top, Condé Nast calls their entire ranking into question. In all, the publication comes off as more patronizing to the District than anything else.

New York City or Los Angeles deserves the top spot on this list. Both are home to hundreds of venues not to mention all of the country’s major (and most of the minor) record labels and the music media. Massive pop stars and bright-eyed, aspiring musicians alike call both cities home. For Christ’s sake, bands move to those places to get their careers started. They don’t move to D.C.; they move away from D.C. to those cities.

Hopefully this changes and D.C. eventually – and rightfully – becomes the best city in America for music lovers. A stronger industry presence or festivals on national park land (cough, cough, the National Mall and Meridian Hill Park) could change that. More venues, like the one proposed by I.M.P. at the Wharf development in Southwest, could help too. For the District to reach this title, in essence, D.C. needs more reasons for musicians to stay put. A list put out by Condé Nast meant to throw a curveball at its readers just isn’t going to do it.


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