We Built This City On…


(This post originally appeared here.) 

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“We built this city on rock ‘n roll,” observed the ’80s band Starship.

Which city? Contenders include San Francisco, or possibly New York or Cleveland, depending on the verse.

So, what kinds of music are these cities, not to mention many others, actually “built on?” By combining our data about where artists are from with the kind of music they play, data alchemist Glenn McDonald determined the kinds of music with which a whole slew of cities are most associated.

The results are fascinating.

Some are obvious — one would expect Honolulu to be “built on” Hawaiian music, Reykjavík on Icelandic pop, and Paris on French indie pop. As Glenn points out, these more obvious findings confirm that the system is working.

The less obvious conclusions are even more interesting, with that in mind. You should check out “We Built This City On” for yourself, but first, a few observations:

London is home to the artists of more distinct music genres than any other city. Next come New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Rio de Janeiro, and the rest.

“Remember the song ‘Pop Musik,’ with its lyric, ‘New York, London, Paris, Munich / Everybody talk about: pop music’? Now we can correct it to, ‘London, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris,’” observes Glenn. “Munich, data reveals, is no more important pop music-wise than Minneapolis or Miami.”

San Francisco, as possibly featured in Starship’s “We Built This City,” is mostly built on jangle rock, as well as hyphy, downtempo fusion, jam band, deep ambient, new age piano, glitch hop, neo-pagan, noise pop, neo-psychedelic, psych gaze, riot grrrl, and funk. San Francisco is also strongly associated with Ethiopian pop; we confirmed many of the bands are from there; an Ethiopian pop band in the tech hub of San Francisco might be more likely to distribute their music on worldwide streaming services than one based in Ethiopia.

Cleveland, the “heart of rock ‘n roll,” didn’t make the list.

If you didn’t already click it above, you can find the complete list of genres on EveryNoise.com.

(Read more about the musical influence of Berlin, London, and Paris.)