How to start a music career in Birmingham

Are you passionate about music and want to turn it into a career? Maybe you think this is unattainable, or you’re not sure where to start. The great news is that if you live in Birmingham and you have the work ethic and know-how, you can make a living from music in lots of different ways. Read on to find out how!


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Is Birmingham a music city?

Birmingham skyline

Yes! Birmingham has a rich musical history and is a centre of the UK music industry. It’s worth remembering that there are lots of different jobs in the music industry far beyond just being a performing musician. There are opportunities in light, sound, staging, administration, publishing, marketing, TV and radio to name only a few! Apart from anything else, Birmingham has a vibrant live music scene with loads of great venues hosting a wide range of musicians. 


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Starting a music career in Birmingham

1) Getting started: discover your musical niche

Woman playing guitar

Most of the people who work in the many different areas of the music industry started off their careers making music, either through performing, composing or both. If this is something that interests you, then play around with whatever your chosen medium is. 

Maybe you love playing the guitar and creating music on computers, or you are passionate about rapping. Whatever it is that you like to do, practice and experiment, and try to identify what you have that is different to other musicians around you; finding your own creative voice and carving out your own musical niche is hugely important. 

This only comes from putting lots of time into perfecting your craft and pushing yourself, so be prepared for some hard work, even at this early stage in your career!


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2) Gain an understanding of the music business

Early on in your career, you don’t necessarily need an in-depth knowledge of all the different facets of the music business, but an awareness of the different types of organisations and who works in them can be beneficial when it comes to working out where you might fit in the current industry. A good start would be to look into the three main sectors of the industry: live music, recording and publishing. Some awareness of how these different sectors work (and crucially how they make money) will help you. 

Students on music courses here at Access Creative College Birmingham spend time learning all about the different parts of the music industry, how they function individually, and how they all connect together.


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3) Enrol on a music course

If you’ve spent some time working on your musical craft and you’ve made a firm decision to take the next step to make music a career, then enrolling on a music course can really supercharge your journey into the music industry. A dedicated course will allow you to develop your skills in different areas with the help of experienced specialist tutors who are actively working in music themselves alongside their teaching. You’ll also get to mix with like-minded people who are as passionate about music as you are. 

Learning to collaborate with others is a crucial skill in most sectors of music, and a course such as our Level 2 or Level 3 Music Performance or Music Production will help foster these vital life skills. It’s worth noting that courses such as these require real commitment and hard work, but the rewards can be immense in terms of developing knowledge, building a network, and giving you a head start by building a solid portfolio of work.


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4) Create and promote your music

Student creating music with green screen in background

One of the other benefits of enrolling on a music course such as our music performance or music production courses is that you will build a portfolio of work that you can then use to start promoting yourself as a practitioner. For example, our music performance students form bands and play gigs at local venues in our Birmingham community. Footage from these gigs makes for great social media content, or as part of electronic press kits (EPKs) that gig promoters will use to make decisions about which bands to book for their events. 

Knowing how to promote yourself in the right way, using both electronic platforms and developing the confidence to undertake effective face-to-face networking, are both vital skills to promote your music and get it out into the wider world.


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5) Build your music brand

As you develop your musical craft and start to promote yourself through different channels, it’s important to understand the main principles of branding and how to create images and words around your music that both reflect the music you are creating and also grab the attention of your audience and potential clients. Again, enrolling on a music course and learning how to do this from professionals is a great way to build and use this knowledge.


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6) Perform in local Birmingham Venues

O2 Institute music venue

If you’re a performer, once you’ve built your brand, start work on getting gigs in local venues. 

Find venues that host musicians similar to you and go along to some gigs as a punter to get a feel for these venues. Use your networking skills to get chatting with people who work in these venues and the artists who play there. As you get to know people they are bound to ask for more information about the music you are making, so have a fantastic EPK ready to send when they ask. Most importantly, take any opportunities to play when they are offered to you. 

With effective networking, you can bag yourself support slots for other bands or gigs as part of a bill appearing alongside other acts. Most importantly, if you do start getting bookings, professionalism is absolutely vital. Respond to any communication with venues promptly, turn up on time and with the right equipment, and be respectful to everybody you meet. If you’re able to do this consistently, then you’ll be increasingly in demand as a live performer.


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7) Grow your network 

Networking is absolutely crucial if you are to build a successful career as a musician. Take the time to build your network by talking to as many interesting people as possible at different events. It can be nerve-wracking, but a great way to get a conversation going is to ask people about the music they love and listen to what they say. Most importantly, treat people with respect and be yourself! Having a large network brings loads of opportunities to get your music out there.


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8) Utilise social media and streaming services

Social media icons on mobile phone

Social media and streaming are vitally important to connect with an audience, but it’s important to use them as a tool rather than completely relying on them to get your music out there.

Having a basic understanding of how social media algorithms work to ensure you can get your music in front of as many people as possible on social media is extremely useful. Also, don’t just spam people with your social media content. Offer people posts that are useful or funny and that reflect some of your personality. Again, a music course is a great way to learn more about how to effectively use social media and streaming platforms to promote your music.


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9) Consider who you need to hire

If you’re able to do all of the above consistently, then you will reach a point where you are spending more time taking care of the administration around your flourishing music career than actually making music! Tasks such as answering emails, booking gigs, creating social media content, sending invoices, managing a diary, and taking care of your budgeting can eat into the time you have to create. 

Many musicians hire people to take care of some of these tasks for them. It might just be a friend or relative who takes on some of these tasks for you, or you might want to start thinking about hiring some professional management. Either way, consider carefully who you hire to take on some of these vital responsibilities.

Either way, if you do choose to involve a record label in your career, it’s important that the people at the label are enthusiastic about the music you are making, and as such are willing to put the work in to showcase your music to a bigger audience. 

Another note on labels is that they’re unlikely to be interested in your act unless you can demonstrate a track record of successful gigs and recordings, and that you have a vibrant presence on social media and streaming platforms. However, if you’ve made exciting things happen around your act such as exciting gigs and high-quality recordings, then it can be easier than you think to secure the services of a label, especially in Birmingham which plays host to a range of different record labels.


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10) Understand how royalties work

Royalties are the money that is generated from use of your music in different settings. For example, if a piece of music you have written or performed on is played on the radio or used in a TV show, then you’ll probably be entitled to a royalty payment.

If you sign to a label or publisher it’s important to get a solid grasp of how royalties work; the different circumstances that trigger a royalty payment and how that payment is split between different stakeholders. Even if you’re not an artist or don’t aspire to become one, royalties are fundamental to all parts of the music industry so it really helps to understand them.

This is an example of the vital knowledge that students learn on our music courses here at Access Creative College Birmingham.


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11) Put a focus on video content

Social media icons on mobile phone

Having some knowledge of creating effective video content is really useful when it comes to promoting yourself as a musician. Knowing the basics of how to use a camera, how to edit footage, and how to create additional elements such as pictures or graphics can make your video content much more slick, and will allow you to stand out from the crowd. This is why our music students here at Access Creative College Birmingham learn the basics of video creation, from formulating ideas, shooting and editing footage, and publishing it on different platforms.


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12) Invest in yourself and your music

As we mentioned before, becoming a professional musician is hard. It takes dedication, imagination, persistence and perseverance to succeed. You’ll only do this if you invest the time and attention needed to build your skills and your network. Start to think of your music as a business. Every business needs investment in order to succeed, and your career is no different.


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13) Keep up to date with music trends

Music artist performing in front of crowd

Finally, stay on top of the music scene in your field. Follow other artists whmake music you like, and keep track of any big releases or developments in your area of music. Find websites or social media accounts that post updates around your scene and take the time to check in and interact with them. Most importantly, allow yourself to be inspired by others and have fun!

Are you a musician looking for some expert guidance to help grow your career? At ACC, we have courses for all career levels, from beginners looking to find their sound, to intermediates who want to refine their chops, to professionals that want a brand refresh. Find out more about what we can offer you by booking your place on an upcoming open day. You can also apply for a course online.

Last updated on: 18th June 2024