Music tourism

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Music Of course is holiday, in one crucial sense, a holiday from the mind (Bernad Levin, 1981)

Music tourism is that kind of tourism that takes a tourist to places for the purpose of seeing and participating in a musical event or festival or to see various things attached to a great composer.


Music Tourism – A Product Of Niche Tourism

The rise of cultural tourism all over the world has led to the rise of various genres of tourism. Music Tourism is an explicable part of this cultural tourism and has come to include much of the music and other related cultural forms of expression from all over the world. The link between music and tourism is a wonderfully pleasant association and has therefore inspired a lot of tourists to explore its possibilities leading to an expansion of the boundaries and components of this form of tourism. Till sometime back, music tourism would have only featured Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Mansion in Memphis. Today it includes within its scope, the musical genres of almost all naions spanning across the globe.

Tourism on its own has undergone a host of changes. Newer rationales for travel and entertainment has led to considerable refinements in this industry that is severely affected by demand considerations. So as the number of tourists swelled, so also a need for newer sites, newer places, experiences and adventures. Travellors at times seeked experiences suited to their specific needs and pockets and this led to a move away from Mass tourism to Niche Tourism.

There are various forms of niche tourism, like, birth tourism, sports tourism, sex tourism, ecotourism, Culinary Vacations, Tea Vacations, Vineyard Vacations, film tourism, literary tourism and many more. Music tourism also belongs to this form of tourism – niche tourism - and seeks to provide specific experiences to the people who opt for it.

Music Tourism – A Quest for Culture, Heritage and Hedonism

Of those who opt for a discovery of music of various forms and various genres, across continents, most of them include musicians themselves, on a journey to explore music as it lives on and exists among various cultures . Notable among these are Bernand Levin’s journey through various classical music festivals (Conducted Tours, 1981), Henry Shukman’s Travels with my Trobone: A Carribean Journey (1993) and Duncan Mclean’s On the Trail of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. As Duncan Mclean writes, the search for the real Bob Wills goes beyond the battered fidlecase exhibited in the museum in Memphis. Rather it is the search for the spirit of Bob Wills amidst the country dance halls and sun kissed fields of Texas, brought alive by the men who still play him on their pianos and banjos and will him to live on in spirit.

Music Tourism is all about the search of the spirit of musicians who have made a mark in their times; it is about the seeking out of the parameters of music; exploring its boundaries without letting the constraints of geography come in the way. So it is with equal fervour that a musical minded person will go to hear Yanni play his soul stirring music amidst the serene background of the Taj Mahal in India and also enjoy the splendour, rhythm and bonhomie that is steeped into the music of the South American Carnivals.

Music Tourism and Its Beginings

By the start of the 18th century, most of Europe was well settled in terms of law and order and this was when the upper classes of Europe started going out of their homes in search of newer forms of recreation. Tourists started the trend of exploring places on a cycle and cycle tours became hugely popularized. Then came a time when spas mushroomed all over Europe and health tourism got a big fillip. Gradually touristic aspirations led to exploring various cultural, artistic and archeological aspects. Music played a relatively small role up till then and tours centered around music rarely happened.

Things changed around the 19th century, especially due to the presence of military camps next to the leisure resorts. The military bands therein often played and entertained the tourists staying in these resorts. By the 19th century, tourists sampled music wherever they went and the operas along with folk music prevalent in the country sides were a major attraction. Bagpiper players in Italy were major crowd pullers as were gum leaf orchestras ( since the musical instruments were the gum leaves used as instruments that seemed like flutes) from Australia.

Music Tourism grew significantly towards the end of the 20th century, and all forms of music, classical or folk,places of musical composition, places shown on celluloid that became associated with music (as the countryside shown in The Sound of Music), or those related to a composers place of birth or his death became tourist attractions. These places not only gave people a lot to enjoy and upheld hedonism, but more importantly they preserved the identities and spirit of musical eras gone by as well as the traditional flavour of the region manifested by its music. Mozart, Bach, Strauss and other classical musicians were crowd pullers and Salzburg became a sort of stage to which toursts flocked. Equally popular was the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra which played to packed audiences in two big halls, Musikverein and Konzerthaus.

In Bayreuth, hometown of Richard Wagner, people travelled all the way to hear Parsifal. Also benifiting in a similar way were Vienna and Salzburg. The Flamenco in South America and the Portugese Lagos were hot tourist pullers. In Lisbon one of the main tourist attaction is putting music to poetry and the soul stirring fado music. Often one thing led to another and the time left between operas or musical performances was put to advantage by the tourists who took time to explore the towns. So the places also grwe i popularity.

Classical music occupied centre stage during these times and folk music was marginalised to some extent. Of course the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergeres in Paris were notable for their song and dance routine, but does not find so much mention in historical accounts because it did not cater to elitist and refined tastes. Thus music tourism was a more upper class thing and did not really percolated down to the middle class sections of the society.

These days, with the easy accesibility of places and downsizing of air fares, the tourism market is no longer an upper class prerogative. Anyone with a musical inclination can opt for teh many destinations that boast of music. Various festivals are held all over the world and these need not always be expensive. So people are increasingly exercising their options and going to places just to listen to their kind of music or kiss the ground on which their favourite composer once walked.

The Economics of Music

Music Tourism, as a sub set of niche tourism is becoming more prominent and brochures frequently list out the musical attractions of the places they seek to advertise. Countries as Ireland, Iceland, Austria, France, Italy Denmark, Sweden speak about the musical attractions they provide, whether in the form of opera houses or homes of great musician and composers,or, places where huge festivals of music and dance are held that occupy a place of prominence in the society. Irish Pubs all over the world capitalise on the popularity of Irish music and the mood it invariably evokes. Elsewhere in the Far East singing along or the Karaoke is a very popular thing with visitors , who travel to these places for the same. In Borneo, the Rainforest Music Festival is a huge tourist attraction. Countries like India and Pakistan are also music destinations and the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh are much sought after for their folk music that is one of its kind and provides a deep insight of the people and culture of the place.

Music Tourism is just not about music and is in fact alligned to immense growth possibilities for a place.Tourists come for the music, but allied services such as food, lodging, transportation…al these services add to the economy’s growth. A lot of local musicians are also hired and they too get to show their talent and their art. So there is an all round growth in the economy that is spurted off by the music tourism industry.

However, this kind of tourism is shortlived as music festivals do not run over unlimited days Also tourists do become satiated after a certain time seeing the museums, dances and the music that they have come for. A lot of money is made from the promotional activities prior to events and these also are over short periods of time.

Music tourism is therefore a vital part of cultural tourism, catering to a niche audience and has panned the entire world today. It is not just about music alone, but also about exploring the sights, sounds, heritage and cultural ethos of a certain place. Places such as Salzburg, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, Seattle,Hawaii, some parts of South America have restructured their economies around music and other cultural attractions.

Music tourism extends to two ends of a spectrum. On one end is the attraction of the music which evokes memories, passion, nostalgia and above all gives the listener a sense of enjoyment. On the other end is the acute commodification of music, manifested in the memorabilia like glasses incribed with Beethovan’s symphony, toffee warappers with mozart’s face on them, elvis teddy bears, posters, postcards, jewellery, soveneirs, even toilet paper rolls dedicated to the favourite musician. Traditional music is being encouraged a lot as it is a means to boost the tourism and the economy in general

Places such as New Jersey are trying to cash in on the music legacy of its shores as well as the popularity of current residents, Bruce Sprinsteen and Jon Bon Jovi. Clearly music tourism also has an effect on the economics of a place and it therefore makes every sense to encourage this kind of tourism


  • Music and Tourism : On The Road Again, Chris Gibson and John Connell
  • Songlines Music Travel - World music tourism and festival travel