Global connections and influences: music cities

band on stage in front of thousands of people at Liverpool's Pier Head, with the Liver Building in the background

Amsterdam performing at the Mathew Street Festival © Dave Evans

In some cities with an active music scene music can be one among a great many social, cultural and economic activities and does not stand out from the rest, despite its quality. In others however, music is sufficiently prominent to become associated with the city in people's minds, creating a sense of the place as a music city and drawing media attention from around the globe.

The promotion of cities as music cities by music and media industries has had an impact on life within those cities. In many cases, for example, the reputation of music cities has been such that tourists have been drawn to visit them mainly - often solely - to see the places at first hand that they associate with music they love. This has been true for European classical or concert hall music and cities such as Bayreuth (Wagner) and Vienna (Mozart, Johann Strauss and others). It has also been true for popular music. In the US music fans started to visit New Orleans soon after World War II to search for sites associated with the birth of jazz.

Similarly the success of the Beatles attracted attention and visitors to Liverpool. This led to the emergence of Beatles tourism in the city and the official branding of Liverpool as a music city. This close association between music and cities is evident in the names of certain musical styles and sounds. The Liverpool Sound is an obvious example, as are styles of US popular music such as New Orleans jazz, Chicago blues, Nashville country, Detroit techno and Seattle grunge.

In this and other ways music has contributed to the image and reputation of cities and the activities and experiences of city visitors and residents. Many music cities are port cities including Liverpool, New Orleans and Oran in Algeria. Ports have been important in facilitating the flow of musical styles around the world. Major ports are very international places. Sailors and travellers visit them from all over the world. As they pass through they hear new music and take that home with them. They also bring their music with them and leave traces of it behind, where local musicians pick up on it. Many times, of course, people coming into ports don't ever leave them and so add to the rich local mixture of peoples and their musical traditions.

Many music cities also house an abundance of music businesses, facilities and resources - Nashville, for example, is known as the centre of the US country music industry. In this way music has played an integral part in city economies. Often the basis of a city's music economy is performance in a network of venues, or businesses involved with music recording, marketing and distribution.

But music has also provided a focus for the emergence of local tourist industries and city marketing initiatives. City twinning and friendship agreements are one example of this. They provide an opportunity for the development of connections and exchanges between cities, but also for the international promotion and marketing of the cities involved. Liverpool, for example, has twinning or friendship agreements with various cities and music has provided the starting point for some of them.

Follow the links below to find out more about these agreements and music cities that Liverpool is officially connected to.