London. We’re so used to paying for things. Everything has a price, and music is no exception. Live gigs can cost tens, even hundreds of pounds. Because that’s the way it has to be, right? Or at least that’s how we tend to think. But what if we took a step back from the superstar culture, and spent more time going to free open mic nights and independent gigs? There’s a whole host of free, accessible music nights out there, people just don’t really seem to know about them.
The obvious first question to ask about free music is one of quality. Because if it’s free, it surely has to be rubbish, right? Not necessarily (although sometimes, yes). It’s kind of a lottery. There are so many different artists playing at different stages of their careers, so of course the standard is likely to vary. But there are loads of talented musicians out there who’ve yet to be discovered for the commercial market, so you might just spot a future star.
A second question would be that of where to actually go, and what’s out there. In London, there are live music nights all over the place, but I’d say that Camden and Shoreditch are the main hubs (having played a fair few open mic nights myself). For a few early tips, check out nights at Corner Shop in Shoreditch (Monday), Spice of Life in Soho (Monday), Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town (Tues) and Inspiral in Camden (Wednesday). If open mics aren’t your thing, though, there are plenty of free gigs out there, with pre-arranged acts. Just have a look out for events at venues like Roadtrip and The Workshop and Barfly.
It may be that you’re not convinced by open mic nights or free gigs, and that’s fine. Established musicians draw a huge following and rightly so. They’re extremely talented and know how to entertain. But, let’s not forget that James Bay and Ed Sheeran, to name just a couple of examples, came out of London’s open mic scene. So, hit up an open mic night for a drink, and you might just discover the world’s next superstar while you’re at it.
Stay tuned for more musical notes on the Secret Musician Diaries.