Skip to main content

Try out Artist Pages for FREE now! 💅

Get it here
iMusician logo
All blog posts

The Top Cities in the UK Empowering Independent Music Artists

  • 24 August 2023, Thursday
Share this article on
Top Cities for musicians iMusician

Taking the plunge into the world of music is no easy task, in the UK alone there are an estimated 37,000 musicians spanning a broad range of demographics and genres. From competition, and recognition to inspiration, where you live can greatly influence your career as a musician.

Despite the music industry still thriving, it isn’t the same as it used to be with many musicians struggling to make ends meet, especially in the current cost-of-living crisis.

In light of this, we have researched the top cities outside of London that are empowering independent artists. We measured a variety of different factors including; the number of gig venues, rent costs, number of available part-time jobs and the average cost of a pint to see which UK cities came out on top as best to support an independent music artist.

The UK’s best cities for independent musicians ranked

Top 20 Cities For Indie Musicians iMusician

Top 5 cities for indie musicians in the UK

1. Liverpool

Liverpool is one of the world's most famous musical cities, birthplace of the Beatles and nicknamed the capital of pop. The city hosts 15 festivals across the year and is home to some of the country’s most famous music venues such as the Cavern Club and the Jacaranda and has a density of three venues per 100,000 people in the city.

In comparison to other cities across the UK, it ranked highly for low rent prices, with rental properties costing roughly £717 a month, and the average pint costs less than £5 at £4.30.

The Beatles aside, Liverpool has been home to Gerry and the Pacemakers, The La’s, The Zutons and Echo & the Bunnymen, to name a few, could you be next?

2. Manchester

Around 35 miles east of Liverpool is the city of Manchester which ranked second in our study. Rivals of Liverpool in anything from music to football, Manchester has birthed a number of iconic bands such as Oasis, The Stone Roses and The Smiths and is often called the UK’s greatest music city.

The University of Manchester is ranked fourth in the UK for music related degrees, making it a great place for artists to hone their skills. However, students may struggle with high rent prices in the metropolis with rent setting them back £928 a month on average.

Unfortunately it takes time for a music career to become profitable, therefore most artists rely on part-time jobs, in Manchester there were over 3000 part-time job listings at the time of this study across a variety of sectors including hospitality and retail, making it a great fit for upcoming artists.

3. Birmingham

Currently the third largest city in the UK, with a population of over one million people, Birmingham has an extensive music scene. With 16 live music venues across the city and eight festivals, including MADE festival, there is a wealth of opportunities to get that much-desired first gig.

The University of Birmingham ranked 11th in the national tables and with an average rent price of £820 it is a very student-centric city, perfect for young aspiring musicians to get their foot in the door. Located in the Midlands, it’s also well connected to both London and the larger cities in the North.

Black Sabbath, Duran Duran and Electric Light Orchestra are just some of the many artists to come out of Birmingham.

4. Bristol

The only southern city that ranked in the top five was Bristol, located in the West Country; the city is famous for its harbour and rich nightlife.

The city hosts 15 festivals every year spanning a variety of genres and scales. Known for celebrating local and independent artists, Dot-to-Dot Festival takes place across 13 of the city’s venues every May, whilst Love Saves the Day is named Bristol’s biggest independent music festival.

Home to famous venues like The Louisiana, The Fleece, and St George’s, they all offer plenty of opportunities for up-and-coming artists.

Our study has however highlighted the disparities between rent costs in the South vs the North, with the average rent price hitting £1,254 in Bristol, which is a £537 increase than its northern counterpart Liverpool

5. Glasgow

Glasgow beats its Scottish rival Edinburgh to make the top five in this study.

Notoriously a working-class city known for its passion for sport, Glasgow also has its fair share of successful artists. Franz Ferdinand, Simple Minds and Gerry Cinnamon all originate from Glasgow, and Gerry in particular proudly sings of the city he was brought up in.

Its working-class background has a big influence on the city’s affordability with rent averaging at £813 a month and a pint can cost as little as £4.35.

There’s a clear demand for local music in Scotland's most populous city, with it having the most Google searches for ‘live music’ in Scotland.

Simon Gardner, industry expert at iMusician:

“When moving to a new city there are a number of factors to consider as a musician before taking the leap. You will be entering a new pool of competition so be prepared to make yourself stand out to separate yourself from the rest."

“Open mic nights and competitions such as battle of the bands, are all great first steps to involve yourself in the local scene. Try to familiarise yourself with the city’s venues and their promoters while also attending lots of gigs, especially those of other local independent musicians, to help build up your network within the city’s music industry."

“Local radio play and online music distribution will also boost your local profile, offering promoters a chance to hear your music before booking a gig and targeting local music fans outside of the live gigging scene."

“Each city will follow its own set of rules, differing from venue to venue and genre to genre. Dedicate time to researching the city’s scene before moving to have a greater understanding of whether it’s the best fit for you and your art.”

The most affordable cities for independent musicians

20 Cities Affordability For Musicians iMusician

1. Gateshead

Known for its proximity to Newcastle, Gateshead residents can take advantage of the city’s famous nightlife, and pubs and bars where people travel from all over the country to visit. Just south of the River Tyne we can find the most affordable city/town for an independent artist to live. Rent prices could set you back £583 a month and pints are an impressive £2.80, so if you consider yourself the next Sam Fender, Gateshead could be the spot for you.

2. St Helens

Like Gateshead, St Helens is located near a very popular and famous city. Sitting just 16 miles east of Liverpool, and 28 miles from Manchester it is a well-situated affordable option and boasts its own nightlife scene to boot. The average rent cost is £601, which is much cheaper than the other two cities it neighbors, and the price of a quiet or maybe a not-so-quiet pint can be found for £2.80.

3. South Tyneside

Returning to the North East, South Tyneside sits in close proximity to both Newcastle and Sunderland. Ranking third for its affordability, renting a property in South Tyneside will cost you, on average, £534, compared to the £712 average in Newcastle. Close by is South Shields, a town that has an abundance of pubs and live music opportunities, so if you don’t want to commute to the bigger cities in the area, you can always try your luck there.

4. Rhondda Cynon Taff

Moving out of England for the first time, the location ranked as the fourth most affordable is in the valleys of South Wales, around 13 miles north of Cardiff. Rhondda Cynon Taff is an area that was once famous for coal mining but suffered dearly because of the decline of the British coal industry. It could be a great option for independent musicians looking to get onto the Welsh scene, with affordable transport to Cardiff costing as little as £5. The cheap rent price is another attractive feature, with a month's rent setting you back £485, leaving room in your budget to spend on other essentials.

5. Charnwood

Situated in the heart of three cities, Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, with its capital, Loughborough, offering a wide range of rail and bus transport. Loughborough is famous for its university, meaning the town can have as many as 25,000 students during term time. This could lead to a number of gig opportunities at student nights and in the popular local student pubs. Having the pick of three local cities also increases your chances of securing gigs, meaning you could tap into each local scene.

The cities with the highest demand for gig tickets

Our study has shown that the UK has many great cities to watch live music in, but as a fan and a musician, demand for gig tickets is an important factor to consider. We looked into how many people in each location searched for “live music” to get a rough estimate of the demand for gig opportunities and tickets in the area.

Top 20 Cities Demand For Gig Tickets For Musicians iMusician

1. Brighton

Situated on the South Coast, Brighton is extremely popular with Londoners looking for a quick getaway. Brighton is often referred to as the UK’s most LGBTQ+ friendly city and has the most live music venues per 100,000 residents. Racking up 4,400 searches for “live music” in the last month alone, there is a clear demand for gigs in the city. It’s worth noting, with its proximity to London, a pint can be quite expensive here, with the average price being £4.94, so be prepared to spend if you choose to visit Brighton.

2. Manchester

It’s no surprise that Manchester has been featured a number of times during this study; Manchester regularly sees some of the world's most famous artists perform within its city limits. In the last month alone, over 7,000 people have searched for live music in Manchester and have 14 venues to choose from. Manchester has always been popular with music lovers, with its Northern Quarter hosting bars that play a variety of genres ranging from Irish folk to indie classics and if electronic, house and techno is more to your taste, the famous Warehouse Project is also located in the heart of the city

3. Glasgow

Another city featured twice in our rankings is Glasgow. With over 7,500 searches for live music and 2.3 music venues per 100,000 residents, the study highlights that demand for gigs is extremely high in the Scottish capital.

Simon on navigating a city as a music fan:

“Moving to a big city can be overwhelming and trying to find the venue that will suit you the most is no easy task. The best thing to do is do your research in advance. Following venues’ social media pages or keeping an eye on where your favorite artists repeatedly tour can give you a good idea of the genre and type of live music that’s available on each given day."

“Spotify and other online platforms are another great place to discover the local scene with city-specific playlists showcasing the talent on offer; it can provide a snapshot of the artists currently releasing music in that city. By uploading your music to Spotify, you can aim to get featured on these playlists, firmly positioning yourself as a contributor to that music scene.”


To go about creating this study, we looked at several different factors. The population of each city was sourced from City Mayors, before looking at Wikipedia and Insure4Music to see the number of live music venues in each location. To discover the number of festivals in each city we used data from EFestivals and Eventbrite.

Indeed was used to see how many part-time jobs were available within five kilometres of the city/town and to discover the number of people searching for the term ‘live music’ we used Keyword Tool and set it to all the individual locations.

When looking at the cost of living factors, for the price of a pint we used expatistan and for the average cost of a month's rent, we sourced from Home. Finally, for the university's music course rankings, we looked at The Complete University Guide.

All data was collected in June 2023.

Share this article on
Always stay up-to-date

All You Need.
All in One Place.

Get tips on How to Succeed as an Artist, receive Music Distribution Discounts, and get the latest iMusician news sent straight to your inbox! Everything you need to grow your music career.