If you're a fan of live music and comedy, there is no better city to live in than New York City. Every day there is something exciting going on, somewhere in the city. More importantly, a lot of these events are free or very cheap. In the past year, I have seen Foster the People, MGMT, Santigold, Metric, Jimmy Cliff, Matt & Kim, Crystal Castles, the Roots and the Silversun Pickups for absolutely free! I have also seen Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan, Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo, Wyatt Cenac and many more perform stand-up for $5 or less! Even better, sometimes these events also have free food and drinks. Keeping in the spirit of the Library to provide excellent free or cheap resources, I have decided to share the best ways to attend these events with you. Read on, and I will tell you how you can take advantage of these free and cheap events in NYC.
Free Santigold ConcertOne of the main tools I use to find free concerts is Twitter. I have an assortment of venues and sources for free and cheap concert news compiled into one Twitter list that I monitor frequently. One of my go-to resources on that list is MyFreeConcert. They know before anyone else when all of the free concerts and parties will take place. They mainly list two different types of events; large outdoor events where you just have to show up, and more intimate concerts that are either ticketed, require an RSVP, or are guest-list spots won in a contest.
RSVP and Ticketed Events
The RSVP and ticketed events are often parties thrown by companies to promote brand awareness. MyFreeConcert gives a great overview about why these companies throw these events. The RSVPs or tickets are usually done through filling out an online form, or emailing a certain email address. Sometimes RSVPs are only made available by winning a contest set up through an artist, a venue, or another third party. If you really want to see a certain artist, definitely follow them on Twitter or Facebook, they usually update their fans about free events. Some great general resources for free tickets, RSVPs and contests other than MyFreeConcert include Live on Letterman, Jimmy Fallon's Band Bench, Live Nation NYC, Bowery Presents, and My Social List. Andy Tickets also sometimes gives a good heads up about cheap tickets... I found out about a really intimate Hives show through him that was dirt cheap!
Most of the RSVPs allow you to bring a guest with you, because concerts are more fun if you go with a friend! The one thing that you should be careful about when attending these free events is that you must show up early! Most of these events are overbooked, and an RSVP is not a guaranteed admission... once the venue reaches capacity, they will stop admitting people. Most people get in line for these shows about a half hour before doors open. I usually show up an hour early to be on the safe side, and I always get in. I wouldn't want to get turned away, and take that sad ferry ride back to Staten Island, empty handed.
Many larger, outdoor concerts featuring very popular acts are often put together to be televised by the Today Show, or Good Morning America. Some recent and future performers on these shows include Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Chris Brown, the Beach Boys, No Doubt and Pitbull. The Summerstage events that happen in parks all across the five boroughs is put together by the non-profit City Parks Foundation. Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell, and the Williamsburg Park also have a few free outdoor events in Brooklyn this summer. All you have to do to get into most of these is show up. For most of these free outdoor events, I recommend that you arrive early, so that you can get the best view.
If you like free or cheap comedy, NYC is full of great options, with amazing comedians. Just yesterday, I saw Lewis Black and several other comedians do great sets for only $5! Some cheap/free weekly shows I recommend include: Comedy at the Knitting Factory, Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen, Pretty Good Friends, Tell Your Friends (who just ended their 7 year run at Lolita in the LES, let's hope they find a new spot!) and Whiplash at the UCB Theatre. Sometimes the comedians at these shows are working out new material, so don't always expect their most polished acts. They're always a great time however, and you really get a sense of the process of a comedian developing his or her act.