The Hearby Report 2020/21: The State of Live Music in North America

Gary Halliwell

Hearby.com is an AI-driven live-music tracker, launched in early 2020. It was a bad year for live music — a near total ban on indoor gatherings wiped out vibrant & energetic music scenes across North America.

In the top 70 metro-markets we cover, the data shows clearly the hardship unleashed on so many artists, venues, and workers who rely on this space for their livelihoods.

Hearby tracked the numbers that show just how badly live music was hit in 2020 & the prospects for live-music’s return across North America in 2021.

Here are the numbers:

PRE-COVID 2020 - ERA OF MUSIC ABUNDANCE

Hearby live show data shows that in early 2020, despite harsh winter conditions across much of the country, live music fans in the top 70 North American metro markets had about 50,000 music shows each month to chose from.

Q1 2020 live music show volumes

We watched it all unfold

THE CRASH - EARLY SUMMER 2020

First half 2020 live music show volumes

At the end of March, everything came crashing down. Hearby.com data shows live music fell off a cliff & by June was about 5% of normal.

2nd HALF 2020 - A WEAK PULSE

Live music showed a slight recovery late summer during the warm weather, as musicians & venues adapted to social distancing. Show volumes fell again as winter set in & live music faced another near death experience.

Live music shows Jan-Dec 2020

MUSIC STAYS ALIVE IN THE SUBURBS

Red – live show
Grey – venue closed

Hearby tracking data recorded how live music migrated in the summer months to suburban restaurants, brew pubs & drive-ins where it was easier to socially distance. Meanwhile, city-center venues remained closed.

BEST-SERVED US CITIES FOR LIVE MUSIC

The ranking here shows which US cities are best served for live music. 

Austin is America’s most musical metro market, with one venue for every 12,500 residents. 

By comparison, Kansas city –  at 10th on our top 10 list, has one venue for every 33,300 people. 

Austin, New Orleans & Nashville are unsurprisingly some of the best served music cities in the nation, earning their place as revered music tourist destinations. 

It’s great to see our hometown Boston at 5th, supporting our view we have an amazing music scene in the city.

1. AUSTIN, TX

2. COLORADO SPRINGS, CO

3. NEW ORLEANS, LA

4. NASHVILLE, TN

5. BOSTON, MA

6. RALEIGH / DURHAM, NC

7. CHARLOTTE, NC

8. ST. LOUIS, MO

9. BALTIMORE, MD

10. KANSAS CITY, MO

WORST-SERVED US CITIES FOR LIVE MUSIC

Sacramento is the worst-served large US metro-market for live music in the US – with only one venue for every 100,000 people. 

New York, at 10th worst-served for live music, has one venue for every 60,000 people. That’s a surprise as there are more shows in New York than any other metro region due to its size. Why is it still so poorly served per capita? We believe high real estate costs & gentrification are likely factors.

LA is another surprise here given its deep history in the American music scene. LA has one venue for every 67,000 people. Is lack of public transportation one of the key market forces here?

1. SACRAMENTO, CA

2. SAN JOSE, CA

3. ATLANTA, GA

4. CLEVELAND, OH

5. MIAMI, FL

6. LOS ANGELES, CA

7. SAN ANTONIO, TX

8. PHILADELPHIA, PA

9. CHICAGO, IL

1O. NEW YORK, NY

 

LIVE MUSIC OUTLOOK 2021

With the passing of the Save Our Stages Act as part of the COVID-19 Relief Bill and the arrival of vaccines, 2021 is looking brighter. But with uncertainty about how and when money will be distributed and many months before the vaccine will be widely used, it’s clear that musicians, venues, and fans face a long road back to recovery. 

Hearby tracks thousands of live music venues across North America. To date, 10% of venues have permanently closed. The majority of the rest remain shuttered & we can expect many more will not survive.

Live-streams clearly have a place in the new order. Time will tell how these increase access and whether they are profitable and sustainable.  Still, venues like Smalls Jazz Club in New York were ahead of many, offering streams before the pandemic hit, and generating some much needed revenue.

A potential silver lining is the expected fall in commercial real estate prices in city centers. This is expected to provide stimulus to the birth of new live music venues in our city centers.

After this is over, we're all going to want to dance.
Gary Halliwell
Co-founder, CEO & Chairman, Area4 Labs Inc

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