The Geography of Music

Mark Altaweel


We do not often think of music having a spatial relationship to different factors or even other music. However, geography and spatial analysis can demonstrate that music not only has important spatial properties in regards to how it influences but also where it is played, where venues may develop, while music also has important political and economic implications. (Related: Geography of Heavy Metal Bands)

The link between geography and music is evident based on the fact that so many different types of music often use location or geography as part of their lyrics. In fact, this was found to be true in a variety of countries and styles of music.

A geologist plays the guitar near a river.  Photo: Anya Metcalfe, USGS. Public domain.
A geologist plays the guitar near a river. Photo: Anya Metcalfe, USGS. Public domain.

This geography within music has important economic and social implications, while mapping and understanding where music is played and its preference can provide deeper insight into economic circumstances and the political landscape.[1]

In a 2018 study of San Antonio, it was shown large music venues are generally concentrated in areas that avoid poorer neighborhoods. Increasingly, many large venues also move to the edge of towns or even outside as venues get larger and greater numbers are attracted to outdoor settings. Such changes can have an important economic effect, as communities are left out in benefiting from business opportunities in places while outer communities benefit more as venues move to them.[2]

While music venues can reflect economic conditions as well as reinforce them, music has also been shown as a key metric that demonstrates political and social divide across the United States. In a study looking at different economic variables and political preference, there is a strong relationship in how people vote and the music they listen to.

The study used factor analysis to look at music taste and bivariate correlation analyses and regression analysis to look at political, economic, psychological, and demographic factors affecting music. The study demonstrated that political identity and music preferences demonstrate a strong relationship across the United States, with 95 population locations and cities sampled.[3]

Screenshot of the Music Map - Search online mapping application.
Screenshot of the Music Map – Search online mapping application.

Musical taste is also evident in regards to where certain artists arise and the type of music they are known for. The Music Map effort has documented this in an open accessible map that shows where given artists come from. This also includes musical bands and bands themselves are usually formed based on given geographical factors that include the type of urban environment and music preferences in that environment.[4] 

Music is a complex process, where genres that arise in one place can influence other places and their musical history, but often those places develop their own brand or even type of music based on influences from other regions. This is the case of skiffle, a type of music that originated in th US in the early 20th century, but migrated to the UK and by the 1950s the UK had developed its own style and changed the music genre to fit its own local tastes and traditions.[5] 

The development of music also has a strong relationship with where creative industries are developed. In a recent study, large urban settings are generally where creative industries have been more active. However, technology and access to new technologies can also influence these industries, where imbalances between technology availability could influence where industries are more recently developing. This may mean to gain and develop greater variability within the creative industries, imbalances in technology as well as economic disparities may need to be addressed by countries investing in their creative industries.[6]

Music has a number of important geographical links that affect the economic, politics, and tastes of music. Music itself is also an important indicator of economic disparities and political identity. The geography of music is still a relatively poorly understood phenomena but the studies that do exist have demonstrated clear geographical links and demonstrate the importance of geography in understanding music.


[1]    For more on the links between geography and music, see:  Scoffham, S. (Ed.), 2013. Teaching Geography Creatively, 1st ed. Routledge.

[2]    For more on the changing music venues of San Antonio, see:  Renard, S., 2018. Mapping Music Cities: A Case Study of the Musical Landscape of San Antonio. MEIEA Journal 18, 145–172.

[3]    For more on the relationship between political preference and musical taste, see:  Mellander, C., Florida, R., Rentfrow, P.J., Potter, J., 2018. The geography of music preferences. J Cult Econ 42, 593–618.

[4]    For more on the Music Map project, see:

[5]    More on how the music of skiffle developed in the US and influenced music in the UK, see:  Marcus, A.P., 2020. Skiffle in the U.K.: the indigenization of a musical genre. Journal of Cultural Geography 37, 216–235.

[6]    For more on the creative industries and how technology influences this, see:  Boal-San Miguel, I., Herrero-Prieto, L.C., 2020. A Spatial–Temporal Analysis of Cultural and Creative Industries with Micro-Geographic Disaggregation. Sustainability 12, 6376.


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About the author
Mark Altaweel
Mark Altaweel is a Reader in Near Eastern Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, having held previous appointments and joint appointments at the University of Chicago, University of Alaska, and Argonne National Laboratory. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

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