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Arriving at a clear-cut definition as to exactly what constitutes a regional style of popular music. Major recording centers such as New York City and Los Angeles encompass far too many genres and different studios to enable one particular musical form or approach too predominate. Locales featuring a significant number of live performing venues—most notably, Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri—also tend to attract a stylistically diversified array of artists.

Other cities have become the focal point for a given genre; this can mean that stylistically-related artists establish a common home base or simply hang out within a particular scene on a regular basis. Denver (early 1970s country rock), Miami (late 1970s Caribbean-inflected funk), and Portland (late 1990s alternative rock) have functioned as a magnet for certain like-minded musicians and their fans; however, they all failed to leave a discernable recorded music legacy.

Nevertheless, many cities in the U.S. alone have become identified with the origin—or development—of a certain style. This identity is generally the result of a fortuitous blend of cultural elements, including high-profile recording studios (featuring producers and session players whose services are in high demand), commercially successful record companies, sufficient live concert options to keep musicians close to home as well as facilitating the exchange of musical ideas, an abundance of mass media outlets, and a local populace possessing the resources and aptitude required to support a viable scene. Twentieth-century urban centers possessing all or most of these preconditions (with the entrenched genre and time frame of peak popularity noted in parentheses) have included: