Is the music scene in Birmingham growing?

Birmingham has always had a vibrant musical culture and rich musical history, but what is the current state of music in the city? We took a deep dive into the scene to find out.


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Birmingham’s underrated musical history

Person playing guitar

Most people would probably point to London or Manchester as being the most important musical cities in the UK. While they are undoubtedly hotbeds of musical activity, Birmingham’s contribution to musical life in both the UK and around the world is at least equal to those two cities. Many Brummies feel that the important contribution the city has made to music and wider culture is often overlooked because people from the city don’t shout about it as much as they should! People from outside the city are often astonished to discover that their favourite acts come from Birmingham. 

Also, the wide range of music that has emerged from the city. The fact that musical styles pioneered in the city have been adopted and copied all over the world; makes it hard to pin down one particular style or sound associated with Birmingham. This further dilutes the perceived impact the city has had on music.

The forthcoming BBC drama This Town, which is set and filmed in Birmingham, is an exciting exploration of how Two-Tone and Ska developed in the city and wider West Midlands region in the 1980s. If you’re interested in the history of music in Birmingham then we can highly recommend it!


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The most famous music artists from Birmingham

Birmingham has launched a staggering number of major artists over the years. The city is probably most famous for being the birthplace of heavy metal in the late 1960s, with Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath the pioneers of a style that has since been adopted all over the world. The birth of heavy metal in Birmingham has quite literally changed the course of musical history, and the style continues to influence musicians globally to this day.

Aside from heavy metal, acts as diverse as Duran Duran, Joan Armatrading, UB40, The Streets, Electric Light Orchestra, The Moody Blues, Malkit Singh and Laura Mvula all hail from Birmingham. If you want to find out more about these artists then you can check out our blog post on the top musicians from Birmingham.

I think it’s safe to say that whether it be punk, new romantic, progressive rock, pop, or R&B, Birmingham has produced at least one world-class and innovative act in almost every single musical movement of the last 60 years, and these are the tip of a very big iceberg of acts who are making waves on a local and national level.


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A list of record labels in Birmingham

Vinyl playing on record player

Birmingham plays host to a range of record labels that, apart from releasing and distributing music, offer a range of services to artists, from tour management to recording and consultancy. 

Punch Records is based in the Custard Factory (a five-minute walk from Access Creative College in Birmingham) and has grown from a record shop to a fully-fledged talent development agency and events management company. 

Similarly, Swordfish Records is a fabulous record shop on Dalton Street that has also released music on its own label from artists such as Acid Mothers Temple and Ya Ho Wha 13. 

Iron Man Records started in Birmingham in the late 90s and now has offices in Cardiff and London. As well as releasing music, they have provided tour services for major acts including Seasick Steve, Natacha Atlas and Friendly Fires. 

The Birmingham Record Company, attached to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, releases genre-bending music of all types, from 12-minute micro-operas to country and western piano quintets. 

Finally, the legendary Oriental Star Recordings, which shut its doors in 2016, championed Asian music in Birmingham and evolved from an importer of records to releasing original music, selling millions of copies in the process, and exporting British Asian music from Birmingham to the world – a fantastic story.


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The best music venues in Birmingham

O2 Institute music venue

As you’d expect for a city of its size and musical pedigree, Birmingham has many excellent live music venues that play host to a huge spectrum of acts most nights of the week. What’s more, many of these venues are within walking distance from the Access Creative College campus in Birmingham. 

XOYO Birmingham hosts a range of club nights and bands across its various rooms and stages. Be sure to check out the amazing roof terrace, especially in the summer! 

The Rainbow has an illustrious history, hosting gigs by acts such as UB40 and La Roux. It’s now been lovingly restored and is well worth a visit. 

Devil’s Dog Is a must if you are into rock and metal, with the venue regularly hosting major touring acts from all over the world. 

The O2 Institute Birmingham boasts three rooms, and has live music happening on most nights of the week. 

And finally, The Night Owl puts on great rock, indie, hip-hop and R&B, as well as the legendary ‘Neighbourhd’ jam night. 

If you want to know more about any of these venues then you can check out our guide to Birmingham’s best music venues.


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Where to learn music in Birmingham

ACC Birmingham music student playing guitar on stage

If you’re passionate about music and want to make music your career, then applying for a music course at Access Creative College is a great place to start! We offer pathways in both music production and music performance, and students learn a wide range of skills and knowledge from recording, events management and composition, to the music industry, remixing and performing. Many of our former students are working in Birmingham’s growing music scene in a range of roles.  Why not sign up for one of our open days to find out more?

Last updated on: 18th June 2024