The Manchester music scene is one of the most influential and famous music scenes in the world. Okay, we’re biased, but we’re sticking with it because Manchester is home to some of the most famous bands in the world, and we’re still producing incredible music.
The Music Scene in Manchester is Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive…
We’re not even sorry. In the 60’s and early 70’s Chorlton-cum-Hardy born the Bee Gees made their way onto the disco scene with a beat so catchy we literally use it for CPR training today. That Saturday Night Fever feeling was definitely felt throughout Greater Manchester, especially at Pomona Docks, which in the 70’s was home to the region’s first floating nightclub.
What should you do with a drunken sailor? Take them to The North Westward Ho! which was literally a nightclub on a ship at the docks with seven different bars and an overflow venue in the form of a parked RAF jet next door. It was nicknamed ‘The Love Boat’ and we’ll let you decide why. Boozers would go and dance, hit heads on low beams and fall down the ship’s steps. Boogying on a boat in Greater Manchester at the height of disco fever music, what more could you want?
History of the Manchester Music Scene: The Birthplace of Indie
The late 70’s saw the opening of Manchester legend ‘The Factory’, styled in homage to the New York club of the same name. It attracted an array of touring bands as well as upcoming pop punk groups. The ‘Factory Nights’ were so successful that in 1980 Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton set up Factory Records and released its first LP, Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasure’.
The very next year they went on to open The Haçienda. It was cheap entry, cheap drinks, great music and is a huge part of Manchester’s music history. Though it was hugely popular and regularly packed, it actually cost Factory tens of thousands a month. The Haçienda, sponsored by Factory Records, was largely responsible for the Manchester house and rave scene, and the subculture it created was noted by the GM Chief Constable at the time as being responsible for reducing football hooliganism. That’s the power of the Manchester music scene alright.
Factory Records was an integral part of the Manchester music scene, but its cultural impact was worldwide. It was home to Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and more. The label was a force for cultural regeneration despite bleeding money. One of its founders, Wilson, said ‘We made history, not money.’ and that they certainly did. In fact, if you want to know more about Factory Records, its cultural impact, and the men and women who made it successful, you can catch Manchester Science and Industry Museum’s Factory Records exhibition. Just make sure you use hearing protection.
Don’t be fooled though, Manchester’s incredible music is far from in the past. We gave you The Stone Roses, Oasis and The Smiths. More recently Blossoms and The Courteeners have been flying the flag for Manchester’s music scene. God bless the band. You can visit all the iconic locations that helped shape Manchester’s music history with Manchester Music Tours.
Manchester’s Best Gig Venues
Before we dig into this, let’s be honest, all of Manchester’s gig venues are incredible. Each one gives a little something different to the Manchester music scene, with their own individual vibes. It’s basically impossible to choose. Don’t believe us? All you have to do is take a trip down memory lane with everyone’s favourite Manchester gig memories to prove it.
In the Manchester City Centre your live music options include Albert Hall and The Ritz. The former being an abandoned chapel-turned-music-venue, the stunning architecture, stained glass windows, and old pipe organ provides a spectacular backdrop for an intimate gig. The Ritz is known for attracting Mancunian partygoers. The Manchester music venue has seen many Manchester music scene legends like The Smiths and Happy Mondays and its stage continues to host top acts today.
The Northern Quarter is known for being a music hub within Manchester’s City Centre. There you’ll find Night & Day cafe, a grassroots music venue with over 30 years of history. The iconic neon sign welcomes Manchester’s gig lovers inside the boisterous music venue.
The Warehouse Project hosts a three-month programme of warehouse parties featuring international DJ’s and live performers. It’s a staple in the house and techno music scene in Manchester. Just make sure you wear hard shoes, this has been a warning.
If you’re looking for bigger gig venues in Manchester to get you buzzing then Victoria Warehouse or Manchester Arena will definitely give you that feeling. They both have a fast moving programme of some of the music industry’s biggest names from Blossoms to Megan Thee Stallion.
Historic Old School Manchester Music Scene
Each year on 29th August Manchester’s music scene ramps up to celebrate Record Store Day. Since Manchester is home to some of the greatest singers, bands and writers of all time, of course this day is huge. People travel from all over to get their hands on special release vinyl made just for this occasion.
Get yourself to the Northern Quarter and you’ll be close to some of the best record stores in Manchester and between them they have all the records you need from the music scene. Oxfam Emporium holds an impressive second-hand collection offering weird and wonderful LPs and singles you never knew you needed and all dirt cheap.
Piccadilly Records is Manchester’s largest and longest running independent record shop, meaning you’ll really be getting a taste of the city’s music scene because this one’s a staple. With forty years’ experience they offer an extensive range of records and if you can’t find what you want, the lovely staff will help you with their incredible knowledge.
Another NQ classic is Vinyl Revival which has a collection of local Manchester bands going back to the 60’s. You can also browse the impressive collection of t-shirts, posters and CD’s from the city’s musical heritage. Don’t worry though if Manchester bands aren’t your thing (firstly, re-evaluate that) you can also browse their great selection of punk, reggae, soul, hip hop and more.
Outside of the city centre there’s Kingbee Records in Chorlton, one of the last remaining independent record shops in the North West of England. Collectors and dealers from all around the world go to Kingbee and their stock is constantly rotating so it really will be different each time you visit.
Has Manchester’s music scene impressed you? If you’re looking for something to do before your gig check out what’s on in Manchester. Also don’t forget to fuel up properly before any gigs at one of Manchester’s cracking restaurants, bars or cafes. Keep up with Manchester’s gigs, live music and the general scene by following The Manc Audio Instagram, or browse our articles below.