City Focus: Birmingham

Blog by Michelle Lloyd under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music

Image credit: Steve Watkins

As The Unsigned Guide is a UK wide resource we thought it was time we got a bit personal and had a look at what’s happening in the various emerging music scenes across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Over the coming months we’ll be bringing you a series of blogs focusing on various cities, giving you the lowdown on what’s on offer for musicians and giving you a heads up on the acts currently making waves.

First up is the jewel in the Midlands crown; Birmingham!

So we’ve checked in with some Birmingham music industry insiders, plus rounded up feedback from our members for their top tips for the city. Our Brum posse consists of JUICE musician, DJ and promoter extraordinaire Thomas Holloway, Amazing Radio’s Jack Parker who hosts a weekly show showcasing the latest sounds being made in the Midlands, local band Dumb’s singer Dylan Williams and freelance sound engineer Richard Mitton who’s resident engineer at The Victoria and The Loft .

In its 1980’s heyday, Birmingham was the breeding ground for DIY rock and heavy metal;  Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death and Goldflesh all calling it home along with members of Led Zeppelin. Then came the likes of UB40, Electric Light Orchestra, The Beat and Duran Duran who were all deemed Birmingham boys. With the Reggae, Dub and Ska culture of the city having always been prominent, the Electronica scene of the 90’s also shone a light on the city’s musical offerings. But over the last year or so Birmingham seems to have had something of a musical comeback as emerging new talents including Peace and Swim Deep have brought national attention to the city’s Indie scene.

But has there always been a thriving unsigned and emerging scene in the city? 

Jack - "I only popped up in Birmingham in late 2011. Around that time it was Troumaca paving the way for new bands by throwing these ace parties at the Adam & Eve where they hosted early sets from Swim Deep and Peace. But if you look back, there have always been bands making ace noises in Birmingham such as the legendary Johnny Foreigner who put Brum on the map a few years back.”

Richard - “I think most cities have always had their own particular scenes, it's just that over the years what's currently in vogue changes. It just happens to be Birmingham's turn to be in the spotlight at the moment. I guess the sheer size of Birmingham helps, there's a lot of room for bands of all genres, so plenty of chances for bands to catch a particular wave.” 

Dylan filled us in a little more on where this supposed regurgitation came from and why it’s led to some misrepresentation:

“I think the spotlight moved onto the city when Peace really caught the imagination of NME and then they ran an article on 'The Rise Of B-Town' and that whole thing really sprung to life. It’s important for people outside of the city to realise that 'B-Town' is a tag that relates to a few bands doing similar things with a similar sound within the city and not the actual city itself. We certainly don't consider ourselves to be a 'B-Town' band."

B-Town labels aside it’s fair to say that all aspects of the emerging scene in the city are flourishing but which promoters should you be getting in touch with? Where can you go to record and rehearse? Are there any radio stations and publications willing to give you of coverage?  Well, read on to find out.

Gig venues in Birmingham
As expected, Birmingham is home to a whole host of live music venues with many of them regularly putting on local band nights, open mic sessions and showcases. Almost every part of the city has its own independent venue representing it. In Kings Heath there’s the Hare & Hounds who put on gigs most evenings, in Moseley there’s The Bulls Head, Digbeth has The Adam and Eve which has provided a popular haunt for many local bands over the years.

There’s also a plethora of independent venues in the city centre keen to support local emerging talent - The Victoria, The Sunflower Lounge, The Loft and new venue Talk all come highly recommended. And if your sound’s on the heavier side, The Flapper, Scruffy Murphys and The Asylum are well worth checking out if you’re looking to gig. 

For more details of specific gig nights, booking contacts, capacity info and demo submission policies, don’t forget to check the Venues section of The Unsigned Guide.

Gig promoters in Birmingham

A good promoter who’s passionate about supporting local talent is worth their weight in gold, but with so many cropping up across any given city it can be tricky to find out who’s reputable and who isn’t. So which promoters come recommended in Brum?

Richard -  “Birmingham's music scene owes a huge debt of gratitude to Arthur Tapp/The Catapult Club. He's been putting on gigs for new bands in Birmingham for over 20 years. Countless bands got their first gigs with him! There's also Carlo/Birmingham Promoters, This is Tmrw, The Party Planning Committee and plenty more.” 

Thomas - “Birmingham Promoters are the guys making it happen in Bham, then you've got It's Just Noise, This Is Tmrw and PSW who are all really really good.” 

Again, The Unsigned Guide is a great source for finding gig promoters in your city or town. All the above promoters, along with 270 others based across the UK, are featured in there so you’re bound to get in touch with someone who can help you out.

Recording Studios & Rehearsal Rooms in Birmingham
Birmingham boasts an array of studios who have worked with some top rate musicians over the years. Many also offer special deals and competitive prices to unsigned & emerging acts.

Artisan Audio in Moseley has an extensive selection of vintage instruments and high end equipment. If you’re a guitar band, The Blackbird Recording Studio might be just the ticket; they assure excellent acoustics.

Behind the scenes at Blue Whale Studios

Blue Whale Studios, situated in the Custard Factory, pride themselves on working with unsigned bands and helping them reach their full potential. Univibe Audio have experienced producers to hand and also provide CD duplication services too.

Rehearsal wise, Central Stage have large spaces available, perfect for pre-production practices in advance of live shows. Musoplex provide rooms that can comfortably hold up to 7 musicians which are open 24/7 with negotiable rates. The Oxygen Rooms in Hockley also come recommended, as do Robannas Studios.

We have over 120 recording and rehearsal facilities featured in The Unsigned Guide for the Midlands alone, so finding a studio to suit your needs shouldn’t be a problem.

Unsigned radio stations in Birmingham
One name that cropped up regularly when we enquired about getting airplay for your music in Birmingham was Jack Parker of Amazing Radio. There’s also the weekly BBC WM (95.6FM) Introducing show playing the very best new music from the West Midlands, hosted by Brett Birks and Louise Brierley. 

Both stations welcome submissions from local bands and artists. Our Radio Stations section of The Unsigned Guide directory will provide you with their details, not to mention DJ and radio producer contacts for over 40 more Midlands stations that will consider your music.

Music press in Birmingham
Brum Notes is a monthly guide to music, lifestyle and what's on in Birmingham, distributed free at hundreds of venues across Birmingham and the West Midlands. They focus on new music from signed and unsigned bands, DJs and promoters. Features on unsigned bands are commonplace and they’ll also consider demos for review online and live previews in the magazine.

Counteract Magazine is an online magazine showcasing the best music news, reviews and interviews from the city. Again they’re keen to support the surrounding music scene and it’s often the first place new acts get coverage.

Music festivals in Birmingham 
Moseley Folk Festival started back in 2005 and is held annually in Moseley Park on the first weekend of September. Many local Folk acts feature on the line-up and relish the opportunity of playing in the luscious woodland surroundings.

With a passion for all things Birmingham, One Beat Records are keen to be at the forefront of new music and every July proudly put on a one day music festival at the outdoor arena at mac Birmingham. One Beat Festival features the best break through bands Birmingham and its surrounding areas have to offer.

With many festivals starting to accept submissions for 2014 already, it’s the ideal time to refer to the Festivals section of The Unsigned Guide for details of how to get on the bill.


Record Shops in Birmingham
When it comes to Record Shops, Swordfish Records in the city centre is one of the few remaining independent record shops still going in Birmingham. They stock material from local, unsigned artists of most genres. Polar Bear Records in Kings Heath will also stock material and have some room for your posters and flyers too.

Emerging Brum Talent
So, who’s currently making waves in Birmingham? Some of the acts we hear from our sources to watch out for include Midnight Bonfires, CurbLacedGrafham Water Sailing Club and Black Dollar Bills. Get them on your radar!

And as a final pointer, what would those in the Birmingham know offer up as their best bit of advice for any acts looking to make headway in the city?

Richard - “Practice, practice, practice. Get your live show sorted - it's usually the first impression anyone will get of you. Be professional in dealing with promoters and venue staff; the rock star attitudes can come when you've made it, not before! And above all else, buy the sound engineer a beer, he's the last link between you and your audience, it pays to be nice to them!” 

Jack - “Go watch other bands do their thang. Support and you shalt be supported.”

Dylan - “Hmm, don’t let people tag you with the 'B-Town' badge! I think it can be damaging. After all, if the music is great nobody should care where you come from.” 

Thomas - “It's all about the songs, don't just rush, take your time and make something good GREAT. The main thing though; have fun...if you're not having fun what's the point?” 


city focus, birmingham music, new music, unsigned bands, unsigned artists,


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