The Sound Of Portland, Oregon


Welcome to the first installment of “The Sound Of Cities,” in which Spotify Insights takes a close look at a city’s musical taste to see what makes it tick — or, rather, hum, sing, whistle, and dance.

First up: Portland, Oregon, USA, a place lovingly portrayed as an organic, indie, bicycle town “where young people go to retire” by the Portlandia television series. Of course it’s really much more than that, as anyone who’s been there can attest.

To find out more about what makes Portland unique, let’s check out some Portland-related music based on anonymous play data from “the city of roses.”

The Sound of Portland

Relative to people everywhere else, Portlanders disproportionately prefer music that has lots of guitars in it, judging from the above. Other words that describe Portland’s distinctive taste: laid back, dreamy, acoustic, new, organic, folk-rock, reverb, indietronica, and not much hip hop. As of June 11, Portland kind of does sound like a misty, rainy place with strong coffee:


The Sound of Portland Indie

Portland’s slogan, similar to that of Austin, Texas, is “Keep Portland Weird.” In honor of that spirit, here’s the indie music Portland listens to a lot relatie to people in other places. It’s another way of looking at what keeps Portland “weird”:


Portland’s Top 10 Tracks

Popular music tends to be popular everywhere, so we’re not too surprised that Portland’s most-streamed music closely resembles the US chart in the Spotify app’s Browse section.


Portland’s Sonic Sister Cities

As of now, here are 10 most similar places to Portland in terms of the acoustic attributes of the music they listen to distinctively. This is not about the bands being the same, or anything like that — it’s purely based on the way the music each city distinctively listens to sounds, and how similar that music is to Portland’s in terms of several purely acoustic attributes.

So it’s not that they listen to the same music — it’s that the music they listen to distinctively shares lots of sonic characteristics.

  1. Vicenza, Italy
  2. Bergen, Norway
  3. Oxford, Great Britain
  4. Gent, Belgium
  5. Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
  6. Bath, Great Britain
  7. Aarhus, Denmark
  8. Leuven, Belgium
  9. Antwerpen, Belgium
  10. Uppsala, Sweden

Because each city’s distinctive playlist changes twice per month, these similarities also change twice per month. But as of right now, Portland’s music fans have lots of sonic preferences in common with cities in a variety of countries, but especially Belgium, another beer-brewing stronghold… coincidence? Probably.

Portland’s Distinct Superlatives

Here are some standouts from Portland’s distinctive music (the 100 tracks that Portlanders play a lot that other people don’t tend to play), as of June 11:

10 Most Popular Artists from Portland*

The following artists and bands, who are either from Portland or have members who’ve spent significant time there, have the most streams on Spotify.

  1. Elliott Smith
  2. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
  3. The Decemberists
  4. Helios
  5. RAC (Remix Artist Collective)
  6. Emancipator
  7. She & Him
  9. Eluvium
  10. Horse Feathers

*Update: Our data currently lists Modest Mouse as being from Issaquah, WA, and Sleater-Kinney as being from Olympia, WA, although they’re each associated with Portland as well. If they’d been included, Modest Mouse would be #1 on the above list, while Sleater-Kinney would have nearly made it.

Portland’s Most Popular Tracks

The most popular music tends to be popular everywhere. This list of the ten most-streamed songs in Portland, Oregon strongly resembles our list for the country at large.


Songs About Oregon

Looking for songs about Oregon? Here they are.



To get to the distinct “sound of a city,” we make a long list of songs that are popular in that city, and then another long list of songs that are popular in the world. When we then flip those rankings against each other, out pops a ranked list of music that is distinct to the Spotify listeners in that city. That created the distinctive Sound of Portland playlist.

The Sound of Portland Indie: This is the same as above, but with independent music (typically, but not necessarily, from lower-profile musicians who aren’t on a label).

Portland’s Top 10 Tracks: The most-streamed tracks during a two-week period from the end of May to the beginning of June.

Portland’s Sister Cities: These are the cities, out of about 1000 worldwide, whose distinctive city lists most closely resemble that of Portland, Oregon, strictly according to acoustic attributes describing how the music sounds, such as Acousticness and Energy level.

Portland’s Distinct Superlatives: To create this, we filtered the list of 100 songs distinctive to Portland by some of those acoustic attributes to find the one with the highest energy level, danceability, and so on.

10 Most Popular Artists from Portland: Spotify has deep data about where artists are from, or at least the places with which they are most associated. To create this list, we looked for the ten artists from Portland with the most streams ever.

Portland’s Most Popular Tracks: This one’s a simple count of streams of all songs in Portland for from the end of May / beginning of June.

Songs About Oregon: Spotify has data on songs that are about the US states; these are the ones about Oregon.


(Photo courtesy of Flickr/michaelsilbertstein)