We have to support the arts if we want them to survive. I know a lot of college students and musicians who want to support the arts, but financially it can be expensive. So I’ve created a list of venues and dates where you can watch a show for little to no money. Hope this helps anyone who wants to support music, but has a tight budget. 

Jazz Showcase


I love the Jazz Showcase so much. So many great performances happen here from local legends to well known acts. If you just want to hear live music every month there are at least a couple of free performances which are usually sponsored by WDCB. Even when there is a cover charge it’s usually 5-15 dollars and even cheaper if you have a student ID. Check them out. 

Green Mill

The Green Mill is usually a little more expensive than the Jazz Showcase, but they also have more consistent free shows. On Thursday’s from 5:30-8:00pm you can check out Andy Brown’s Guitar Cocktail Hour Show, Friday’s feature “The Flipside Show” from 5:30-8:00 pm, and early Saturday morning (after 2am) the Sabertooth Organ Quartet is free. So the Green Mill offers perhaps the most diverse and consistent options for listening to live music for free. 

Other Options

Many other jazz venues have free to very affordable options that are also worth considering. The Whistler has a lot of shows that are free and many feature jazz fusion. Places like Emporium Arcade Bar and Winter’s Jazz Club also have free shows from time to time. They don’t have them as regularly as the other venues, but it’s definitely worth checking out the calendar.

There is no excuse to not listen to live music in Chicago. Even if your budget is tight, there are a multitude of options where you can support your favorite musicians for little to no money. While attending these performance I do advise you to at least buy a drink or two. If you didn’t spend any money getting in please consider buying AND TIPPING your waiter/ waitress. Having a good turnout and a happy staff is a major key for musicians. Even if the turnout is low having a lot of alcoholic beverages sold and a pleasant crowd means the band is more likely to get a call to come back again. If the audience is rowdy and cheap when the manager asks the staff how last night was they will be sure to tell them. So please support the arts, go to a live show, buy a beer, and tip your servers. 

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