Navigating the club circuit in Los Angeles can be tricky. There's no shortage of venues, of course, but not all of them are friendly towards up-and-coming acts, choosing instead to focus on performers with established followings. Playing shows is a primary boon for building a fanbase, though, so that logic is problematic for many. These five spots, however, are among the benevolent crop that are quite open to greener artists, both local and touring.
LA's hidden singer-songwriter gem, Room 5 is one of the best-sounding venues around with a great vibe and great food from Amalfi, the restaurant that operates below it. It's the home of LA's top rising talent and the starting place for many successful artists such as Sara Bareilles, ZZ Ward, Colbie Caillat, Tori Kelly, and the Milk Carton Kids.
Why it's great for new bands: Room 5 focuses on developing talent and the music community. Plus, its bookers don't require as much of a draw as many of other venues since it's a smaller space. You must, however, have a base draw of at least 20 people to be considered for a booking, which is reasonable for a town in which it's difficult to build a fanbase.
How to get booked: To book a show at Room 5, send a short email with a link to streaming music and/or a performance video to either Joel Eckels or Shannon Torrence. Please allow up to two weeks for a response.
The Ghengis Music Room in West Hollywood was established seven years after first opening as a spot for Szechuan fare. At first just a designated party room, the area adjacent to the restaurant is now filled with 60 seats and, practically every night, performances by budding singer-songwriters.
Why it's great for new bands: Some smaller restaurant settings aren't superbly equipped in terms of a sound system, but this one definitely is. There's opportunity here for recurring gigs as well and, because it's been consistently booked for so many years, there's an audience who's come to rely on seeing rising artists there.
This Venice spot, open every day but Sunday, is a self-described listening room. But its calendar isn't restricted to only quiet acoustic artists – it plays host to plenty of plugged-in up-and-comers, too.
Why it's great for new bands: Performers hail from all over, so it supports both the local scene as well as touring acts. It's also got a stellar live recording setup, so if you're in the market for a pristine-quality video of your set– a great marketing tool for anyone starting out – Witzend can help.
Pretty much any style of music is fair game at the Silverlake Lounge, be it heavy rock, indie pop, or acoustic singer-songwriters. There's an emphasis on local bands and artists, however, so this spot seems best for folks from the LA area.
Why it's great for new bands: The venue's Facebook page is promo-heavy, in addition to an organized calendar on its website, so every show gets that necessary push from the club itself. And if you can't seem to get a gig, try its open mic nights, which are open to any and all performers.
Hands down the most historic of this bunch, El Cid was formerly a speakeasy called the Jail Cafe in the mid-1920s. About a decade later, it became a theater, then in the '60s was transformed again, this time into the 16th century-tavern replica it is today. That latter reconstruction was when the dinner-and-Flamenco events began, and that tradition remains. The longstanding event occurs on the weekends, but early enough that bands are still booked to perform afterward. Plus, it's open every day of the week, so there are lots of opportunities for shows.
Why it's great for new bands: Venues that champion independent acts are often smaller, but this one definitely isn't. El Cid's capacity clocks in at 125 – which means that bands have the chance to make a big impact with a big crowd.
Keep in mind that these aren't the only places in LA that give chances to newer artists and bands. If you can't land a gig with any of these – or if you can, but want more – keep looking. Aim for lower capacity places, as well as restaurants like Ghengis Cohen that don't lean solely on bar sales at shows for revenue. Both kinds are more likely to welcome budding musicians.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.
Joel Eckels, talent buyer at Room 5 and LA-based musician, also contributed to this article.