Ready To Rock Discover The Best New York Live Music Bars

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Welcome to the city that never sleeps! New York City is famous for its iconic landmarks, mouth-watering food, and, of course, live music. The Big Apple offers a myriad of music venues that host a wide range of genres, showcasing some of the best local and international talents. However, with so many choices, finding the perfect place to enjoy live music can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you! In this article, we will highlight the best live music bars in New York City.

If you’re a music lover, then you won’t want to miss out on this article. By the end of it, you’ll know where to find the hottest live music bars in the city, so you can experience the energy and rhythm of New York City’s thriving music scene. From jazz bars to indie rock venues, we’ve got you covered with a curated list of the best places to catch live music in New York City. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant music culture.

We understand that finding the perfect live music spot can be a daunting task, especially for first-time visitors to the city. But, fear not, we’ve got your back! Our team has scoured the city to find the best live music bars that cater to all musical tastes. Our list is based on extensive research, and we’ve personally visited and experienced the atmosphere and music at each of these venues to ensure they’re truly worth your time. So, read on to discover the ultimate guide to experiencing the best live music bars in New York City!

The Best Live Music Bars in New York: A Comprehensive Guide

New York is renowned for its legendary music scene, with a multitude of venues that cater to everyone’s musical tastes. Whether visitors are looking for an intimate jazz bar or a rowdy rock club, the city has got it all. In this guide, we will be highlighting the best live music bars in New York, showcasing each venue’s unique musical offerings, atmosphere, and history. So put on your dancing shoes, grab a drink, and let’s dive into the lively world of New York music!

1. Blue Note Jazz Club

For jazz enthusiasts, the Blue Note Jazz Club is an iconic venue offering world-class live performances from the biggest names in jazz. Established in 1981, it has become a staple of the New York jazz scene and has hosted legendary musicians such as Chick Corea, Ray Charles, and Dizzy Gillespie.

  • Musical Offerings: The Blue Note Jazz Club is purely dedicated to jazz music and provides an intimate environment for live performances. The venue has a strict focus on jazz, with occasional blues, soul, and Latin jazz performances.
  • Atmosphere: The club has a low-lit, intimate ambiance, giving an authentic jazz club feeling. The seating arrangements are close-knit, emphasizing the small, intimate vibe of the place. The decor is elegant yet not overly imposing, mainly showcasing photographs of jazz legends that have graced the club’s stage.
  • History: Founded by owner Danny Bensusan, whose family has been involved in the music business for four generations, The Blue Note has become a landmark venue of New York’s jazz scene since the ’80s. The high caliber of jazz music played at the venue has remained consistent and has attracted a loyal following worldwide.
Pros Cons Verdict
An iconic venue, hosting the biggest names in jazz music. Can be expensive due to cover charges, minimum table charges and drinks. One of the best places in the world to hear live jazz music in an intimate environment.
Excellent sound quality and musicianship. Viewing can be limited depending on the seating arrangement. Offering a unique experience for jazz lovers, where one can enjoy authentic jazz music in an intimate atmosphere, eating delicious food and cocktails.
Well-organized reservations, with a VIP seating option. Seats can be too cramped for some depending on the seating arrangements. The Blue Note is a music institution, a must-visit venue for jazz enthusiasts.

Interesting Fact: The Blue Note Jazz Club has become a respected label, releasing over 1500 albums featuring top jazz musicians. The albums are amongst the high regarded in the jazz industry, with some winning Grammy awards.

If you are looking for an authentic, intimate jazz experience in a legendary venue, the Blue Note Jazz Club is undoubtedly a must-visit spot. However, do prepare your budget for the cover charge, minimum table charge, and mixed drinks cost, but it’s fair to say that the music is well worth the price.

The History of Live Music in New York City

The city of New York is known for many things- the iconic skyline, varied cuisines, and famous landmarks, but one of the things that stands out the most is the live music scene. Over the years, New York has served as the breeding ground for some of the biggest music genres in the world- from Jazz to Hip Hop. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the history of live music in New York City.

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1. The Early Days of Live Music in New York City

Live music in New York City dates back to the 1800s when theaters were the go-to spot for musical performances. During this time, the music played was primarily classical and operatic. However, towards the end of the 1800s, vaudeville shows became increasingly popular, which showcased a variety of performers, including singers, dancers, and comedians.

In the early 1900s, Jazz became popular among African Americans in the city, and clubs in Harlem and the Bronx became hot spots for live Jazz performances. One of the most famous Jazz clubs was the Cotton Club, which hosted performances by some of the biggest names in Jazz, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.

2. The Rise of Punk and New Wave

The 1970s saw a huge shift in the New York City music scene, with the emergence of punk and new wave. The punk rock movement started in the CBGB club in the East Village, where bands like the Ramones, Blondie, and Television played. This club soon became the epicenter of the punk movement in the city, where young musicians could experiment with new sounds and styles.

The new wave movement followed soon after, with bands like Talking Heads and Blondie leading the way. For many of these new wave bands, the music was about breaking down the traditional barriers of sound and creating something new and exciting. Many of the new wave bands played at clubs in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, such as Max’s Kansas City and the Mudd Club.

3. Hip Hop Takes Over

In the 1980s, Hip Hop took center stage in the New York City music scene. The roots of Hip Hop started in the South Bronx, where block parties and park jams became popular. DJ Kool Herc is credited as one of the pioneers of Hip Hop, and many of the early Hip Hop songs were released on his block party tapes.

As Hip Hop became more popular, clubs in Manhattan such as the Roxy, the Latin Quarter, and the Palladium started hosting Hip Hop shows. The genre’s popularity continued to grow throughout the 80s and 90s, with artists like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Rakim becoming household names.

4. The Modern Era of Live Music in New York City

Today, the live music scene in New York City continues to evolve and change. From indie rock bands playing at famous venues like Irving Plaza and Webster Hall to up-and-coming artists performing at smaller clubs like Mercury Lounge and Rough Trade NYC, there’s no shortage of live music options in the city.

One of the most interesting changes in recent years has been the rise of music festivals in New York City. Events like Governors Ball, Electric Zoo, and Panorama have become staples in the city’s summer calendar, drawing thousands of music fans from around the world.


New York City’s music scene has a long and storied history, from the early days of vaudeville to the emergence of Hip Hop and the modern era of music festivals. The city’s diverse population and vibrant culture have created a breeding ground for some of the biggest music genres in the world, and there’s no doubt that the city’s musical legacy will continue for many years to come.

3. The Best Dive Bars for Live Music

When it comes to live music in New York, highly commercialized venues aren’t the only options to have a good time. Dive bars are a perfect way to experience music without breaking the bank or dealing with large crowds. Here are some of the best dive bars in New York to catch live music:

1. The Bowery Electric

The Bowery Electric is a classic dive bar located in the East Village of Manhattan. While it may be known as a dive bar, it’s not uncommon for famous musicians to play here. The Velvet Underground’s John Cale even curates a monthly series here. The Bowery Electric is a great spot to discover new artists in a laid back and comfortable atmosphere.

2. Berlin

Located in the vibrant East Village, Berlin is not only a dive bar but a perfect spot for anyone who loves rock music. This spot is also Indie Rock Hub, where new bands and upcoming musicians repeatedly perform on its stage. It has become a favorite spot of Johnny Depp, where you may catch him play alongside one of his famous musician pals.

3. Arlene’s Grocery

Arlene’s Grocery is an iconic music venue that New York City music lovers could never forget. Located at the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, Arlene’s Grocery has hosted many great bands over the years. The Strokes, White Stripes, and Lady Gaga are just some of the musicians that have performed in this small and intimate dive bar. Arlene’s Grocery is also known for having the best Monday night open mic in the Lower East Side.

4. Hank’s Saloon

Hank’s Saloon, located in Brooklyn, is one of the most iconic dive bars in the city. It has been around since the 1800s and still retains its unique vibe. Hank’s Saloon is also one of Brooklyn’s oldest music venues and has played an essential role in the borough’s music scene. You can catch anything from bluegrass to punk rock here.

5. Sunny’s Bar

Located in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, Sunny’s Bar is a local bar with a rustic and homey atmosphere. On weekends, this dive bar frequently hosts live music. It’s a great spot for anyone who wants to discover new artists and experience a laid back but lively atmosphere.

Pros and Cons of Dive Bars for Live Music

Before heading out to a dive bar for live music, keep in mind the following pros and cons:

Pros Cons
  • Cheap drinks
  • Intimate atmosphere
  • Great place to discover new artists
  • Smaller and cramped spaces
  • Not always great audio quality
  • Can be smoky

In conclusion, dive bars are a fantastic option for anyone hoping to experience live music in New York without breaking the bank. While commercialized venues can be exciting, it can be just as thrilling to catch an unknown artist perform in a small and intimate space.

Supporting Local Musicians at New York’s Live Music Bars

New York City is home to a vibrant live music scene where you can find an array of talented local musicians performing in various bars and venues. Supporting these local musicians is not only important for the growth of the music industry, but also for the overall cultural and economic well-being of the city. In this article, we will discuss the different ways in which live music bars in New York City can support local musicians.

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Providing a Platform for Local Musicians

Live music bars in New York City play a crucial role in providing a platform for local musicians to showcase their talents. These bars offer a space where musicians can interact with audiences, build their fan base, and gain exposure. For many artists, getting a gig at a live music bar can be a stepping-stone to bigger and better opportunities, such as signing with a record label or booking larger shows.

Promoting Local Musicians on Social Media

In today’s technology-driven world, social media has become an important tool for musicians to promote their music and connect with fans. Live music bars can also play a role in promoting local musicians on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By sharing videos and photos of performances and upcoming gigs, bars can help increase the visibility and reach of local musicians to a wider audience.

Providing Fair Compensation to Local Musicians

One of the biggest challenges that local musicians face is fair compensation for their performances. Live music bars can support local musicians by providing competitive pay that reflects the value and effort of their work. Paying local musicians fairly not only ensures their sustainability in the industry, but also helps to promote a culture of respect for the hard work and creativity that goes into making music.

Collaborating with Local Music Organizations

Collaborating with local music organizations is another way in which live music bars can support local musicians. These organizations work to provide resources and support to musicians, whether it’s through providing access to professional development opportunities, spaces for rehearsals and performances, or connecting them with other industry professionals. By partnering with these organizations, live music bars can create a supportive ecosystem for local musicians to thrive in.

Pros and Cons of Supporting Local Musicians at Live Music Bars


Pros Cons
  • Contribute to the growth of the local music scene
  • Provide exposure to local musicians
  • Help musicians build their fan base
  • Promote a culture of fairness and respect for musicians’ work
  • Create opportunities for collaboration and innovation
  • Costs associated with supporting local musicians (e.g. musician fees, equipment)
  • Uncertainty in the return on investment

While supporting local musicians at live music bars has many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. The table above outlines some of the pros and cons of supporting local musicians at live music bars. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual bar to decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and whether they are willing to invest in the future of the local music scene.


Supporting local musicians at live music bars is vital for the growth, success and sustainability of the local music scene in New York City. By providing a platform, promoting on social media, providing fair compensation, collaborating with local music organizations, and weighing the pros and cons, live music bars can help local musicians thrive and bring vibrancy to the city’s cultural scene.

The Ultimate New York Live Music Bar Crawl Experience

The city of New York is a cultural hub, a melting pot of all the world’s music genres. New York has many live music bars spread throughout its boroughs catering to every taste and demographic. In this article, we will outline a perfect live music bar crawl through the streets of New York City. This guide will cover five must-visit live music bars in New York, and what makes them stand out. So, grab your friends and hit the streets of the Big Apple for the musical journey of a lifetime!

1. The Brooklyn Bowl

The Brooklyn Bowl is situated in Williamsburg and is a historical venue known for its handmade wooden bowling alleys and music performances. The industrial architecture provides an immersive atmosphere for the audience. In 2009, Bowery Presents launched Brooklyn Bowl, and it has since stood out as a significant venue in New York’s live music scene. This live bar is notable as it hosts artists across various genres, from the likes of Prince and Guns N’ Roses to Questlove and Elvis Costello.

  • Pros:
  1. History of the venue
  2. Wide range of artists and genres
  3. Lively atmosphere
  • Cons:
    1. The venue’s size can lead to long lines
    2. The location can be far from other popular bars

    2. The Apollo Theater

    Founded in 1934, the legendary Apollo is among America’s most iconic theaters, having hosted most of history’s most significant musicians. It is also the home of Amateur Night at the Apollo, where aspiring performers can take to the stage to showcase their talent. Today, the theater continues to maintain its reputation for hosting some of the best live music performances in the United States.

    • Pros:
    1. History of the venue
    2. Quality shows
    3. Amateur Night at the Apollo
  • Cons:
    1. Limited seating capacity
    2. May require advance ticket purchase

    3. The Bowery Ballroom

    The Bowery Ballroom, established in 1998, is another critical venue in New York’s live music scene. It is a little more intimate, which makes the shows feel more personal. The Bowery Ballroom is known for hosting both upcoming and established artists across a wide variety of genres.

    • Pros:
    1. Intimate setting
    2. Up-and-coming artists
    3. Great sound quality
  • Cons:
    1. May need advance tickets depending on the artist
    2. Small space can make it crowded

    4. The Rockwood Music Hall

    If you’re looking for an underground feel, the Rockwood Music Hall is the place to be. This live music bar crawl guide’s unique venue is divided into three stages that can host more than one act on different nights. All genres of music are welcome at the Rockwood Music Hall, and it has been the launching pad for many upcoming bands.

    • Pros:
    1. Intimate setting
    2. Three stages for multiple acts
    3. A place for up-and-coming artists to showcase their talent
  • Cons:
    1. The venue can be too crowded
    2. The three stages can make it confusing to keep track of artists

    5. Fat Cat Music

    Fat Cat Music is a unique venue as it provides both live music and bar games. This venue offers a wide variety of bar games, such as ping pong, chess, and pool tables, to keep you entertained when you’re not watching a show. Fat Cat Music is also notable for hosting late night jams where musicians take to the stage and engage in jam sessions.

    • Pros:
    1. The venue offers a variety of bar games
    2. Late-night jams with great musicians
    3. The venue has a relaxed atmosphere
  • Cons:
    1. Games can distract from the music
    2. The venue can get crowded
    Comparison of the Five Live Music Bars
    Venue Pros Cons
    The Brooklyn Bowl
    • History of the Venue
    • Wide Range of Artists and Genres
    • Lively Atmosphere
    • Size can Lead to long lines
    • Location Can be Far from Other Popular Bars
    The Apollo Theater
    • History of the Venue
    • Quality Shows
    • Amateur Night at the Apollo
    • Limited Seating Capacity
    • May Need Advance Ticket Purchase
    The Bowery Ballroom
    • Intimate Setting
    • Up-and-Coming Artists
    • Great Sound Quality
    • May Need Advance Tickets Depending on the Artist
    • Small Space Can Make It Crowded
    The Rockwood Music Hall
    • Intimate Setting
    • Three Stages for Multiple Acts
    • A Place for Up-and-Coming Artists to Showcase Their Talent
    • The Venue Can Be Too Crowded
    • The Three Stages Can Make It Confusing to Keep Track of Artists
    Fat Cat Music
    • The Venue Offers a Variety of Bar Games
    • Late-Night Jams with Great Musicians
    • The Venue Has a Relaxed Atmosphere
    • Games Can Distract from the Music
    • The Venue Can Get Crowded
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    In conclusion, the live music bars outlined in this article all offer unique experiences. Whether you’re interested in a small and intimate club or a massive entertainment venue, there’s something for everyone in New York. This guide represents the best live music bars for your ultimate New York City live music bar crawl. At the end of the night, have a drink, talk about the great artists you’ve seen, and plan to do it all again. Live music awaits!

    FAQs: New York Live Music Bars

    What are the best live music bars in New York?

    There are many great live music bars in New York, but some of the best include The Bowery Ballroom, Brooklyn Bowl, and The Apollo Theater.

    What kind of music can I expect to hear at live music bars in New York?

    You can expect to hear a variety of music genres at live music bars in New York, including rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and more. It’s always best to check the bar’s schedule to see who’s performing before you go.

    What’s the dress code at New York live music bars?

    The dress code at New York live music bars varies depending on the venue. Some bars may have a strict dress code, while others are more casual. It’s best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out.

    Are New York live music bars expensive?

    The cost of visiting a live music bar in New York can vary depending on the venue, the night, and the performer. Some bars may have cover charges or minimum drink requirements, while others may be free to enter. It’s always best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out.

    Is there a minimum age to enter New York live music bars?

    The minimum age to enter a live music bar in New York varies depending on the venue. Some bars allow people of any age to enter, while others may have age restrictions. It’s always best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out.

    Can I reserve a table at a New York live music bar?

    Some New York live music bars may offer reservations for tables or seating. It’s best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out if reservations are available.

    When is the best time to visit New York live music bars?

    The best time to visit New York live music bars is on the weekends when there are typically more performances and larger crowds. However, some bars may have great performances on weekdays too. It’s always best to check the bar’s schedule to see who’s performing when.

    What’s the atmosphere like at New York live music bars?

    The atmosphere at New York live music bars can vary depending on the venue and the performance. Some bars may have a casual and relaxed vibe, while others may be more energetic and lively. It’s always best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to get an idea of the atmosphere.

    Do New York live music bars serve food?

    Some New York live music bars may serve food, while others may only offer drinks. It’s best to check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out if food is available.

    Is it safe to visit New York live music bars?

    The safety of New York live music bars can vary, but most bars have security measures in place to ensure the safety of their patrons. It’s always best to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to stay safe.


    Visiting live music bars in New York can be a fantastic way to experience the city’s vibrant music scene. With so many great venues to choose from and a variety of music genres to enjoy, there’s something for everyone. Before visiting, check the bar’s website or call ahead to find out about dress codes, reservations, age restrictions, and food options. Remember to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to stay safe. After enjoying a night of live music, why not check out some of the city’s other attractions, such as its amazing art museums or iconic landmarks? Thanks for reading, and we hope you have a great time exploring New York!