Today is Michael Jackson’s birthday — and on Facebook, his personal chef promised it wouldn’t be forgotten. Today at his restaurant in Oakland, California, he’s expecting a flash mob to honor what would’ve been the singer’s 55th birthday — all dressed as Michael Jackson. And it got me thinking how in cities all across America, we all have a place for music in our lives– even if the ways that we’re listening to it are changing fast. (Nowadays if I’m listening to music, it’s probably on my smartphone or on my Kindle!)
And recently Amazon distributed one of the most fascinating press releases about music that I’ve ever seen. Earlier this summer, Amazon crunched through their statistics to try to determine who loved music the most — or at least, which cities were purchasing the most music. They compiled “per capita” figures to determine which cities had the most musical purchases per person. And then they announced the complete list — which they called “Cities That Rock” — revealing not just which cities bought the most music, but what kinds of music were most popular there!
For example, Cleveland Ohio is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because it’s the home of the radio announcer who first coined the term rock and roll. “But Amazon sales data suggests that the Rock capital is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” reads the press release. In fact, when it comes to purchasing music, Amazon’s sales data doesn’t even put Cleveland in the top 20! There may be a lot of people in Cleveland, but the ratio of purchases to people just isn’t as high as Pittsburgh — or even Cincinnati, which appears at #6 on the list.
But it’s interesting to note that even all those rock music purchases still didn’t make Pittsburgh the #1 most-musical city in all of America. That honor went to Miami Florida, which actually holds the #1 spot for the most heavy metal purchases per person — and also the #1 spot for the most dance purchases and Latin music purchases. In fact, Miami even has the highest rate of purchasing music for children. It must’ve been fun to be working at Amazon, and identifying the top musical cities — and then trying to guess if there was a pattern!
Because the #3 most-musical city is also in Florida, according to Amazon — the city of Orlando. Amazon points out that it’s the city that gave the world the Backstreet Boys (as well as ‘N Sync), and that per capita, it’s the #1 city in America for purchasing pop music. And further down, Amazon’s press release announces that “the most Country-loving city is the Tennessee River town of Knoxville, Tennessee.” Interestingly, that only earns Knoxville the #13 spot on the overall list — with the #4 spot going instead to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Coming in one notch above Knoxville was another southern town — Columbia, South Carolina, which had the 12th-most music purchases (per capita) of any city in America. But they aso had the distinction of being #1 for their purchases of rap music R&B music, and Christian music.
Hometown to artists like Alexis Jordan and Angie Stone, Columbia, SC topped not one, but three genre lists, including R&B, Rap and Christian. Columbia is the hometown of artists like Alexis Jordan and Angie Stone, Amazon points out — and it’s also identifies a few cities that are living up to their reputation. Amazon’s hip hometown of Seattle Washington had the most purchases per capita for indie rock music — and came in at #7 on the list. And Cambridge Massachusetts — home to Harvard University — bought more classical music from Amazon per capita than any other city in America. (While Berkeley California was their #1 city for jazz purchases.)
Amazon is still one of the biggest sellers of good old-fashioned music CDs — but they’re also helping transition the world to downloading songs and albums digitally. Now when I buy a song to listen to on my Kindle, there isn’t any physical CD that goes with it. In fact, one of my biggest delights with the Kindle is the way it can make music feel new again — because I’m listening to it in new ways, in new places, and at new times. So when compiling their list, Amazon made a point of counting not just CD sales, but also digital downloads of songs and albums — and even purchases of old vinyl records!
The music is still wonderful — and whether we notice it or not, Amazon is quietly becoming part of the way we listen to it. Today I was remembering the day when Michael Jackson died. He’d been such a huge star when I was younger, and I’d wondered if anyone else was thinking about all those albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. And then I’d noticed in Amazon’s music section that their #1 best-selling album was Michael Jackson’s Thriller — and their #2 best-selling album was Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall..
Music really is an experience that we share together. And whether we notice it or not, there are times when our new neighborhood record store is Amazon.