As well as being a prime location for headline tours, London is a springboard for up-and-coming talent and a place where musical sub-cultures thrive.
Thousands of music shows are played each year in London's many unique venues, and affordable performances are easy to come by when you know where to look.
London's grassroots music areas
Alongside more established areas such as heritage-drenched Soho and punk stomping ground Camden, the latest sounds of the city are captured in the burgeoning creative communities in north, east and south-east London.
Visit the likes of Brixton, Dalston, Hackney, Peckham and Stoke Newington to discover new, experimental genres, underground club music and the UK grime movement – all at relatively little cost.
Find London's grassroots venues with this handy map.
Grassroots venues in London
London’s small stages have long played an important role in launching the careers of artists and bands. Visit the capital's many grassroots venues for newer and lesser-known acts from the UK and beyond.
The likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash and Oasis all cut their teeth at the 100 Club on Oxford Street; while Oslo in Hackney and Stoke Newington’s The Waiting Room are small spaces with big sound systems. It’s in these unflashy clubs and pubs that you can see future stars for a fraction of the price of an arena show.
Some artists return to old favourites to practice new material ahead of bigger shows, so it’s always worth checking the listings for a chance to see your favourite band play to an intimate crowd.
Free music in London
Stop by Rough Trade East, Rough Trade Records' flagship UK store near Brick Lane, which regularly hosts free gigs ahead of a new signing or album release. You’re just as likely to find musical giants as rookie bands – guests have included Jarvis Cocker, Blur and Queens of the Stone Age.
Music always features heavily in Southbank Centre’s cultural programmes. Get involved in sessions with local school and gospel choirs or classical orchestras, and enjoy free Friday Lunch gigs every week.
The K-West Hotel in Shepherd's Bush used to be a BBC studio where David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and Bob Marley recorded sessions. As well as being an atmospheric hangout near the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, it hosts free K-West Live gigs showcasing emerging talent on the third Thursday of every month.
From beatboxers in Brixton, to opera singers in Covent Garden and guitarists on Columbia Road Flower Market, buskers bring London’s streets and stations to life as you go about your day. Find London’s best busking spots on the Busk in London map.
Look out for open-mic nights to hear unsigned rising stars for free. Neighbouring the more famous Union Chapel, The Library in Islington specialises in jazz and blues, while Tooting Tram & Social is a talent scout haunt.
Free lunchtime recitals
Hear talented musicians studying at the Royal College of Music perform lunchtime, rush-hour and weekend concerts at beautiful locations around the city, some of which are free to attend. Keep up to date with the listings so you know when and where to find them.
Listen to more classical music concerts at various churches in London, including free lunchtime recitals in the likes of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and St James’s Church Piccadilly London. The Royal Opera House puts on recitals at St Clement Danes Church in the Strand during certain times of the year. You can also attend Choral Evensong at churches across the capital.
Live music for under £10
Lots of good noise comes out of the Rye Wax basement in Peckham’s CLF Art Cafe. Enjoy weeknight events spun by DIY producers, performers and DJs across the musical spectrum that will only set you back a few pounds, if anything.
Get in the groove at popular The Blues Kitchen bars in Shoreditch, Camden and Brixton, which host live rhythm and blues bands every night. Weekends draw a particularly big crowd, where you can usually watch up to three bands for under £10.
London music festivals
Find value for money watching music all day and long into the evening at one of London's music festivals. Big name events including Lovebox, Field Day, Barclaycard presents British Summer Time and Meltdown all draw international attention for their leading line-ups.
There’s also something to suit all ears with genre-focused events such as the London International Ska Festival and the electronica-heavy South West Four; while Wireless Festival champions rap and grime artists.
On August Bank Holiday weekend, you can’t miss the sound of steel pans and Jamaican calypso at the famously free Notting Hill Carnival.
Apps and websites for cheap tickets
Booking in advance is generally the best way to get tickets for a gig in London. Check with the venue to find official websites for buying tickets online.
Take a look at our complete guide for more music in London inspiration.