Top Indie Music Venues

We profile some of our favourite places to watch live music to celebrate Independent Venue Week 2024...


Live music is at the very heartbeat of the UK music industry - from providing new artists with a platform to hone their skills and shape their sound to offering multiple opportunities and income for music industry professionals. 

It's an evolving and exciting sector and one we've responded to by launching our BA Live Event Management degree to help inspire the next generation of talent. 

Independent Venue Week is an annual live music initiative set up to champion the UK's smaller music spaces and will take place this year from 29th January with a whole host of artists performing. It goes without saying that these venues are an essential part of the UK's national music scene. 

According to The Music Venue Trust (MVT), an organisation focused on supporting grassroots music, they "play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any town or city lucky enough to have one. Without these music venues, we wouldn't have had the The Beatles, The Clash, Kate Bush, Dire Straits or Radiohead. And if we don't recognise the role they play there won’t be any more Adeles or Ed Sheerans".  

Jamie Johnston, BA Live Event and Festival Management Programme Leader, agrees. He said: "Our course was written in conjunction with the MVT to repopulate the industry in the post-Covid world and we’ve had a long association with them in terms of modules we previously ran on the BA Music Business and Entrepreneurship course."

You simply don’t get the best new acts without the grassroots music venues. The live music industry can be viewed as a pyramid with Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage at the top, then the arenas, the theatres, large town venues, and grassroots spaces all underneath."

"This shows how the smaller spaces have cultural significance and importance - if you remove the bottom layer of a pyramid, then you are damaging the integrity on which everything is built. These spaces not only help performers hone their skills but provide jobs and places for local music communities to come together. If we don't have these spaces where artists and professionals can cut their teeth, then we're at risk of losing our music culture."

Ahead of Independent Venue Week 2024, we have compiled a list of some our favourite independent live music venues.

Check them out below... 

The Lexington | London 

My favourite independent London venue is The Lexington. It's always a great vibe. The sound is consistently excellent, the stage is nice and wide with loads of space for a big band and there are no annoying pillars getting in the way of the performance if you're in the audience." (Charlotte Hatherley)

Located between Kings Cross and Angel, The Lexington has been a bastion of independent music since it first opened its doors in 2008. 

From its pop quiz hosted by Paul from Guided Missile and White Heat club night to gigs from Billy Bragg and The House of Love, the venue has consistently flown the flag for great independent music. 

Watch our past Course Ambassadors Nova Twins play in the venue.

Cafe Oto | London 

If you're looking for the most creative, experimental sounds in the capital, then you need to check out Cafe Oto. 

Free jazz, improvisation and innovation are what the space is all about with a diverse range of artists performing. 

The Sun Ra Arkestra took up residency to play consecutive nights while Damo Suzuki, former lead singer of Can, has also been a regular. Tucked away in a back street of Dalston in the East End, it's well worth seeking out.

Trades Club | Hebden Bridge


Billed as 'the hippest venue in the North' by the Guardian, the Trades Club is a socialist members cooperative, club, bar and music venue in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. 

It was originally built in 1924 as a joint enterprise by half a dozen local trade unions and brought back to life in 1982.

Everyone from Badly Drawn Boy to Crazy P and Sleaford Mods have made the trip into the hills to take the stage. 

Outside of London, I'm a huge fan of two venues in particular: The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge - run by the marvellous Mal Campbell - and The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Both venues are characterised by an enviable ethos of putting the artists/bands needs first and have grown out of the old social clubs to carve out some unique live spaces that attract the very biggest names on the circuit." (Catherine Anne Davies

The Brudenell | Leeds 

The Brudenell Social and Recreational Club has a long and varied history ever since its inception in 1913. It bought its first premises and current land shortly afterwards where it is still located today.

The Brudenell has been perhaps most famous for hosting secret gigs for bands like Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. However, it has been at the centre of the Leeds music scene for a number of years, and hosts events nearly every night of the week.

King Tut's | Glasgow


Like so many of these grassroots spaces, King Tut's is a Scottish musical institution and played a vital role in the careers of many of the UK's biggest musical stars. 

It is famed for being the venue where Creation Records' Alan McGee signed Manchester legends Oasis. 

Blur headed to the venue in July 1990, having never even released a single or played in Scotland before. Rumour has it that there were only around 40 people in the crowd who witnessed their debut show. 

More recently, Rag N Bone Man first played Tut's in November 2016 as part of his UK tour with Tom Odell. His hit 'Human' had just been released and was gaining momentum at the time.

Jacaranda | Liverpool 

ICMP has recently started offering short courses in Liverpool, a city with a richly melodic musical history famous for Mersey beat, the Cavern and the Beatles.

So we have to choose a venue in the city. Located on Slater Street, the Jacaranda is one of the best spaces for emerging and established talent having been open for more than 60 years. 

At the start of 2024, the venue announced a brand new record store and 400 capacity live space in Cain's Brewery, Baltic Triangle.

The Leadmill | Sheffield 


The Leadmill is the longest running live music venue and nightclub in Sheffield. Based on Leadmill Road, lying on the south east edge of the city centre, it opened in 1980 in a former flour mill. 

The stage has since welcomed many legends to perform including locals, the Arctic Monkeys. 

Franz Ferdinand once told the Arcade Fire that playing the Leadmill was a 'rite of passage' and the likes of Pulp, Coldplay, Oasis, and Jorja Smith have all performed.

Night and Day Cafe | Manchester 

Located in Manchester's bustling Northern Quarter, the Night and Day Cafe is a pillar of the live music community. 

Elbow are one of the most famous acts associated with the venue, with the band even performing there before it had stage.

The cafe has since played an important role in the Manchester music scene, with many successful bands playing early gigs there. According to their lead singer Guy Garvey, he used to give out Night and Day's phone number as a contact as the band were so often at the venue.

The Fiddler | London 


Legendary promoter Vince Power is behind the Fiddler, a live music venue in Kilburn.

Originally, Vince opened the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden 1982 and welcomed a whole host of musical icons including Johnny Cash, Van Morrison and many more. 

This new intimate space consists of two levels and has welcomed many emerging new talents, including artists and musicians from ICMP's own community. 

The fiddler

Servant Jazz Quarters | London  

The Servant Jazz Quarters is another small, yet perfectly formed live music space to be found in Dalston, East London. 

Many leading lights of the music world have taken their sounds to the venue, including Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, Anna Meredith, The Invisible and more.

If you like your live music to be up close and personal, then few venues can rival this kind of musical experience.

Photo credits: Lexington Facebook | Trades Club Facebook | The Fiddler Facebook 

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by ICMP staff writer
January 23, 2024
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