The very best open mic nights in the city – and they’re all free

Manchester's mad for live open mic nights

You already know that there are loads of great places to see live music in the city centre but here’s something you may not know. A lot of them are free.

Open mic is one of the best ways to get into Manchester’s current musical and artistic scene –  not only does it offer valuable stage-time to performers of all kinds, these events are often the most relaxed and welcoming in the city – typically with free entry and a big welcome.

The open mic night scene in Manchester is booming. If you’re sick of the sob stories on X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent and you’d rather see some proper local talent, then it’s time to head into town.

As many good live music nights as there are in Manchester, there’s also enough roll-your-eyes and wish-you-were-elsewhere material to put you off for life.

So to separate the side-splitting, spectacular nights from the total snoozers, we’ve put together a top list.

Here are some of the best in no particular order.

The Lion’s Den

Lion’s Den is an independent live entertainment venue located on Deansgate Mews within the Great Northern complex and has the perfect little sun-trap. They also have covered area if its raining. This place is a warm and welcoming social space for everyone. DJ’s, live music, events, open mic, games and darts. And they’ve recently relaunched their open mic night to showcase Manchester’s amazing local talent.

Every Wednesday from 6:30pm

Sam’s Chop House

Sam’s Chop House has an open mic night that’s already made a name for itself in the city. With a line-up of quality local acts and the beautiful ambience of this Victorian listed building, Thursday evenings here are a treat indeed. There’s also a perk for performers. A free drink if you take to the stage. So what are you waiting for?

Every Thursday from 6pm

Click here for more info

19 Cafe Bar

Tucked away in the Northern Quarter, this snazzy outpost has bolstered the area’s brunch offering with a focused and fantastic menu, choc-full of all sorts of good stuff. They also put on some stellar cocktails and a great open mic night. It’s every second Thursday of the month. Keep an eye on their socials to find out more.

Click here for more info

The Whiskey Jar

This is without a doubt one of the best showcases of new live music in town. The Whiskey Jar open mic night stands out because of its chilled out vibe and warm wooden interiors. A great venue for live music all year round, The Whiskey Jar even has its own musical space for hire – The Still – which features fab musical acts on a regular basis. The fantastic whisky offering doesn’t hurt either.

Click here for more info

Sunday sessions at The Bay Horse

Thomas Street favourite The Bay Horse boats one of the most relaxed open mic events in the city. ‘Sunday Sessions with Ellysse and Edwin’ is hosted by two talented local musicians and treats you to an evening of creative talent and especially good for those acoustics. Recent sessions have included performances from rising stars such as Katie O’Malley and Stephen Ballinger.

Click here for more info

Thirsty Scholar

Firstly, The Thirsty Scholar is worth a visit purely for its quirky interior, fab veggie pub grub, and historic venue. However, if you’ve got the choice, make sure you head down on Tuesdays to the ‘Tuesday Tony’. You’ll catch all kinds of acts, from up and coming local acoustic lads to indie bands with skinny jeans to full on ska musicians sharing the stage with brass bands.


The Trof open mic night is legendary. It currently runs twice monthly, upstairs in the very swanky bourbon bar. The atmosphere is cosy and the night is hosted by Sam Haine. Everyone is encouraged to get up and perform, and there’s free beer for anyone who braves the stage. The current open mic at the Trof has one featured artist with guest slots open before and after their performance. This place tends to get busy, so get in early if you want to bag yourself a slot.

Click here for more info

Get the Newsletter
Timeless Reads

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience.

Latest News
Upcoming Events