7 suggestions for alternative music venues

Published by nedmortimer on

When you’re thinking of ways you can set yourself apart as an artist – your ‘unique selling point’ perhaps – you might want to create a really distinctive live experience. Something so engaging and different that anyone who comes to your show will remember it and want to tell their friends about you.

If you haven’t already, you should check out our article about 5 great ways to engage with your audience as this might give you some ideas. In that article, we mentioned the possibility of using a really cool venue – something other than a traditional music venue or a bar – as a way of creating a memorable concert.

We like details – we don’t like to talk the talk without walking the walk – so here are a list of ‘alternative’ music venues, places you could try to book your shows so that your crowd can see you in an unusual environment. 

I should note: these are just ideas and some of them might work better than others – it’s up to you to explore the costs and logistics if you like any of them!

Alternative music venue suggestion #1 – public transport 

Why not save your fans the trouble of travelling to a concert and turn the method of travel into the concert itself?

There are stories of people hosting black-tie dinner parties on the London underground – you could try hiring out one of the carriages in the underground for a gig, or maybe even a boat (we once played a great show on a narrowboat). Depending on the style of your music, the public transport vibe could really work for you. 

By taking a venue that your fans will traditionally associate with something else (e.g. commuting to work) and offering them a different experience in it, you are subverting the norm and maybe giving them a talking point when they encourage their friends to come along with them to your next show!

(Just make sure you clear everything with the right transport authority – you don’t want to risk your show being closed down for licensing issues…)

Alternative music venue suggestion #2 – hire a house and do a concert-cum-house party

One of the things that always worried me about using traditional venues (i.e. bars) was the lack of control over things like closing time, drinks prices and generally anything that formed part of the audience’s experience.

This leads me to the idea of hiring a big house and running a SOFAR Sounds-style show, with the added advantage that you could segue into a house party style night where people stay up and dance much later.

The broader idea is quite flexible in that it works with a range of different music. Imagine a chilled acoustic singer-songwriter playing a living room show, or a pop punk band playing a ‘Blink 182 meets Frat Party’ kind of vibe, or classical music parlour atmosphere. There are so many possibilities.

And if you offer food and drink (make sure you can trust your audience not to trash the place!) then you can charge much more for your tickets and make the night work financially for you.

Alternative music venue suggestion #3 – places in nature

Especially if you’re able to play acoustically and have a fairly intimate crowd, finding somewhere a bit secluded and nature-based in/around your city could work really well.

You could make it a secret show, getting your audience to meet at a designated location at a certain time and then walk there together.

Although this sounds like a more acoustic ‘campfire’ sort of event, there’s no reason (other than perhaps licensing restrictions or permission from the owners of the land) it couldn’t be amplified music in any genre.

Just make sure that the weather is going to be good and don’t leave litter lying around!

Alternative music venue suggestion #4 – libraries and book shops

If you are a particularly wordy songwriter and your lyrics form a central part of your music, you could cement this image by playing in a literary venue and surrounding yourself with books.

Again, you’d be subverting people’s typical experience of a place – shopping for Christmas presents or studying for their degrees – and using this as a hook for your own brand.

For an extra bonus point, if you’re thinking of having a support slot, why not get a poet or writer to read excerpts from their work, rather than a more standard musical opening act. Depending on your audience, this might engage them more than just hearing a lot of songs.

Alternative music venue suggestion #5 – museums and art galleries

This is much like the idea above but with an emphasis on the visual or more tangible aspects of your brand. If part of your USP comprises your beautiful packshot designs or album art, you might hang these on the walls to recreate the vibe of an art exhibition.

I remember us playing at the Natural History Museum in London about seven years ago, with a giant dinosaur skeleton in front of us and the Charles Darwin bust as a sort of third band member on the stage.

Obviously this depends on (a) finding a gallery space to hire, or (b) finding a museum or gallery that would be willing to host a show. Rather than focusing on the bigger places that maybe already run late night events, you could contact smaller galleries or museums and offer to donate part of ticket sales towards their research in return for using the space.

It’s also worth looking out for similar events that already take place. I remember fondly my indie folk duo August and After playing at the Natural History Museum Lates in London about seven years ago, with a giant dinosaur skeleton in front of us and the Charles Darwin bust as a sort of third band member on the stage.

Alternative music venue suggestion #6 – factories and warehouses

Ok this is DEFINITELY not groundbreaking (especially coming from someone currently living in Berlin) but if you’re looking for a quirky venue you could always consider trying to find warehouse or other abandoned space for your show.

Don’t think that this sort of space is only for certain genres, like techno or industrial etc – you could be a string quartet playing in an abandoned factory and it’s bound to look and sound amazing if the production is on point!

Alternative music venue suggestion #7 – offices and workspaces

There’ll be hundreds if not thousands of companies all over your city that have office space that is unused for large chunks of time, especially in the evenings. You could reach out to some of these – particularly startups, who are often far more open minded to this sort of thing – and ask to use their space for an evening show.

As long as you look after the space and everyone in your audience promises not to steal any company secrets, this could be a cool selling point about your gigs. And you could maybe even offer entry to your show to the hist company’s employees and maybe attract some new fans…

Thanks for reading and I hope these ideas have got some creative juices flowing – as always, please comment if you have any ideas or questions!


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