The State of the San Francisco Music Scene

in Music News by

The state of the San Francisco Music Scene

There’s been a lot of talk about the San Francisco music scene as of late, and not all of the chatter is positive. It’s no secret that San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district gave birth to psychedelic rock in the 60’s, spawning legendary bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, who would become known as the group fronted by none other than Janis Joplin. However, the energy and passion that once kept a city’s live scene going can’t be sustained forever, and musical epicenters come and go with the passage of time.

In With The Money, Out With The Musicians

With the influx of a whole wave of wealthy newcomers to the city, the San Francisco music scene has been hit pretty hard over the last several years. As rent prices soar, local musicians have been pushed to the outskirts of town, many of whom have left the city altogether in search of a better scene in Los Angeles or New York. With so much music leave San Francisco, the city has undeniably lost much of its musical identity.

Closure of Live Venues

Alongside the bands and artists themselves, live venues are a critical element of any music scene and sadly, many in the San Francisco music scene have closed their doors in the last few years. The Red Devil Lounge, SUB/Mission, Kimos, Viracocha and more have all gone by the wayside, leaving fewer and fewer options for concert-goers around the city to see live music.

Fewer building owners are willing to lease spaces for music venues in favor of greater profits with real estate development, and the rush of luxury condominiums are forcing plenty of stages to close down. Couple this with the fact that there is no San Francisco sound of the moment and you wind up with the unhealthy music scene in San Francisco we have today.

Hope For The Music Scene In SF

Though the term graveyard gets thrown around a lot, the music scene in San Francisco is by no means dead as some would have you to believe. A weekly meeting called Balanced Breakfast takes place at PianoFight to discuss issues facing the music scene in San Francisco, while a number of venues like Amnesia, the SF Jazz Center, The Lucky Horseshoe and The Lost Church still cater to concert goers in the city.

There’s still plenty of great live music in SF, though it’s the more upscale venues that are drawing the crowds today as the smaller venues go by the wayside. The mass immigration of tech culture into the city has changed the nature of the live scene, and you’re more likely to catch a DJ set at a members only club than a jam band at a divey music hall. There are still a number of respected music acts that call San Francisco home as well, such as Chuck Prophet, Lords of Seeland and John Vanderslice, to name a few.

While the San Francisco music community is facing a lot of challenges today, rest assured there’s still plenty of great music in SF if you’re willing to look for it.

Having released albums under Digital Nations, a label founded by Steve Vai, music critic Louis Raphael has remained deeply connected to the pulse of the San Francisco music scene. Following his tenure as the San Francisco Music Examiner for and, he embarked on creating Music in SF® to authentically highlight the vibrant offerings of the city's music scene.

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