The ultimate London venue guide for broke student musicians and music lovers

These are some of the best places to enjoy quality music on a student budget and away from the crowds


Student musicians and music lovers must have mixed feelings about being in London. While there’s nowhere better for live music in the UK than the vibrant capital, arena concerts and Soho jazz bars can really put a hole in your average student’s (non-existent) budget.

But fear no more. Whether you’re looking to watch the best up-and-coming bands or looking for a jam and an open mic night, The London Tab compiled a list of places where you’re guaranteed a like-minded crowd and reasonably friendly prices.

Amersham Arms – New Cross

Open since the 1850s, Amersham Arms now hosts daily gigs, comedy nights and DJ sets.

With bands ranging from hardcore punk to folk and blues (sometimes on the same night) and most events from £10 to absolutely free, a journey down to New Cross for this pub is definitely worth it.

You can also book a slot for free at their weekly open mic nights on Tuesdays – though you should expect an audience full of Goldsmiths students with their Lewisham campus right down the road.

Pro tip: Book tickets if needed, as they get a little more pricey at the door. 

Ninety One Living Room – Shoreditch

Ninety One Living Room features young jazz, dance, and hip-hop artists most days of the week and the Brick Lane Jazz Festival in April.

In addition to getting to see some of the more established jazz acts in London, you can also enjoy their 100 per cent vegan afternoon menu and evening cocktails at significantly cheaper prices (£5 to £15) than Ronnie Scotts or Pizza Express.

Pro tip: Jam sessions are on the first Wednesday of every month, but keep an eye out for changes on their website.

Betsey Trotwood – Farringdon

This one is for you wild and eccentric spirits out there. It has a mostly older audience, and acts here can range from Klezmer to experimental electronic music.

But don’t let that put you off. The pub has hosted Mumford and Sons and comedian Henning Wehn, and the low-ceilinged cellar is the best place to see new bands of any style.

Pro tip: Checking their Instagram is vital as they only have gigs a few days a week.

MAP Studio Cafe – Kentish Town

Love quality jazz, folk, and blues but find established Soho venues a burden for your budget? Check out MAP in North West London for a cheaper and more social experience with a younger crowd.

The venue operates as a regular cafe during the day and boasts a weekly free Chess Club and a monthly £7 Comedy night. But most importantly, Jazz at MAP on Sundays is a must for London students looking for a regular jam or wanting to meet fellow jazz lovers.

Pro tip: People playing in jams should get in for free, so be sure to tell them if you are to avoid getting charged at the door.

The George Tavern – Shadwell

A musical oasis, The George Tavern stands somewhat out of place in a sea of residential flats and homes. Despite this, bands from around the country flock here, many on their first outing to London.

You might be initially put off by how much a pint costs, as drinks here are about as pricey as you can get in East London. But ticket prices make up for this, ranging from free to around £10 for reasonably established bands.

Pro tip: The venue can host a mix of bands in one night, but you can easily sit out in the spacious outside area with a newly introduced pizza shed if one rubs you the wrong way.

Shacklewell Arms – Dalston

The Shacklewell Arms originally made its name as a landing spot for punk and metal bands across the pond, but it’s still a great place to see up-and-coming bands, with almost all tickets under £10.

As with The George Tavern and The Amersham Arms, find a free gig with a few bands on, wander from the bar to the stage area, and then back outside whenever.

Pro tip: It’s a bit of a journey from most major London universities, but you can justify the trip to your Oyster Card by going on an even later night out in Shoreditch afterwards.

Matchstick Piehouse – Deptford

How a place advertises itself says a lot. And I don’t know about you, but the Matchstick Piehouse’s branding as an “Anti-Capitalist Venue and Artspace” seems like a smart way to pique my (and my wallet’s) interest.

Steamdown, which takes place here every Wednesday, hosts improvised jazz sessions. But don’t be put off by that if you just want to dance. The nights usually lend themselves to the much more danceable Afrobeat than show-offy traditional jazz, and the floor would be full of people dancing just as they would in any regular club in no time.

If that is still not your cup of tea, the venue also hosts open mic nights, cabaret, and fortnightly free folk nights for people at any level to share almost anything they please.

Pro tip: Make sure to check their website for event dates, as they can change around unexpectedly.

Related articles recommended by this author:

Here are 10 songs you can add to your London campus commute playlist

• Six reasons why Camden is the most overrated area for student living

Satire, scandal and silliness: An interview with the cast and crew of An Ideal Husband