Detailed Findings and Methodology
Musicians’ birthplaces can be central to their identity, and consequently their art as well. Songs by artists like Bruce Springsteen and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, for example, are clearly influenced by their home states. For many music fans, Wilson is practically synonymous with California and Springsteen with New Jersey.
Some particularly large states are home to dozens of musicians who, if born elsewhere, would be far and away the most famous musician in that state. New York, for example, is the birthplace of mega industry stars like Barbara Streisand, Jay-Z, and Mariah Carey, each of whom has sold well over 25 million albums. However, with 82.5 million album sales to date, Billy Joel ranks as the Empire State’s most famous musician.
Many smaller states do not have an artist who has sold millions of records. But when it comes to quantifying fame, album sales are not the only useful metric. Wiz Khalifa, a rapper born in Minot, North Dakota, has had some 4.8 million Wikipedia page views in the last two years, along with two chart topping singles.
In other states, record sales alone are not enough to eclipse other, often less quantifiable metrics of fame. For example, Seattle-born Kenny G is far and away Washington state’s best selling artist, with some 48 million record sales to date. Still, the state is home to Jimi Hendrix, revered as one of the best and most influential guitarists of all time. Despite selling about 25 million fewer records than Kenny G, Hendrix is Washington state’s most famous musician.
To identify the most popular artist from each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed total album sales from the Recording Industry Association of America. We also considered total Wikipedia page views over the two last two years. In some cases, we gave preference to iconic artists, as established by widely cited authorities on the subject, over total album sales or pageviews. An artist was only considered to be from a state if he or she was born there. Preference was generally given to solo artists, but in several cases, artists on this list are famous for being a part of a musical group. The track that ranked the highest on the Billboard chart for the longest time was considered the artist’s top track.