Birmingham is something of a beacon of live music venues, with everything from big names at the O2 Academy to newcomers in Digbeth, there’s something for all tastes here. Live music in Birmingham is always an experience, unforgettable for the atmosphere and the community that the music scene has inspired. Of course, you don’t have to get involved in every aspect to enjoy the music, as it caters for hard-core fans and casual concert-goers alike.
Address: Resorts World Arena, Perimeter Rd, Birmingham B40 1NT
Formerly known as the Genting Arena, Resorts World is the largest live music venue in Birmingham (although they also host comedians), accessible by train (Birmingham International station) and bus. Next year, they are welcoming some huge names in music on their rescheduled tour dates, including Snoop Dogg and The Who. At the same time, their programme for 2021 includes ‘Planet Earth II in concert’, so whatever your taste in music, if you want to listen somewhere with a huge crowd and a buzzing atmosphere, this is the place for you. It’s not as accessible as other Birmingham live music venues, but worth the short trek for the names it attracts, the energetic acts and to be in a space with other music-lovers and avid concert-goers.
Address: 16-18 Horse Fair, Birmingham, B1 1BD
For fans of big, loud, bright gigs with plenty of like-minded people, but with a more significant choice of indie music as well as some more prominent names, the O2 Academy is perfect. Closer to the centre of town than Resorts World, it has previously hosted Troye Sivan and X-Factor winners Rak-su, and dates have been confirmed (or rescheduled) for Becky Hill and The Hara. Comedians and tribute acts are also popular additions to the lineup at the O2, including Jimmy Carr, Jon Richardson and Emily Atack. A real mixed bag, the O2 will have something for anyone, even non-music fans, and it is a lovely place to spend time with friends or family or try out something new.
Address: 76 Smallbrook Queensway, Birmingham, B5 4EG
‘The Sunflower Lounge brings the glamour and grunge of New York dive bars to the centre of Birmingham’. This is what their website lays claim to, and I cannot disagree. Set in the bustling and diverse city centre, The Sunflower Lounge plays host largely to bands, although they do welcome solo artists, too. Most recently, they hosted (or planned to host before COVID-19) Bridges, having performed at Leeds and Glastonbury; The Covasettes, with their light, rock-y sound; and God Damn, with a heavier, bassier set. It’s all about the music here, so this is a great place for hardcore indie fans, but also a great starting point for those looking to get into the local music scene.
Address: 3-5 St Pauls Square, Birmingham, B3 1QU
Classic and popular as a live music venue, The Jam House welcomes up-and-coming musical talent in a number of genres. Recent artists include Elle-J Walters, Omar and Up4 The Downstroke. It is a chilled out place to take in new music while enjoying a meal with friends on their balcony restaurant if you prefer a more relaxed experience. If you want to have a good night out, The Jam House has a great social area and a bar stocked for any taste. Located in the historic Jewellery Quarter, enjoy this place on its own or at the end of a jam-packed day of exploring one of the most beautiful and interesting areas of Birmingham. If it’s a full night out you’re after, St Paul’s Square is full of interesting independent bars and clubs like this one.
Address: Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham, B9 4AA
When you hear the word ‘golf’, perhaps the next thing you think is not usually ‘live music’, but I urge you to think again. Ghetto Golf is not only just a stone’s throw from great places to eat and get a drink (the Digbeth Dining Club is particularly popular), but it has an 18-hole golf course designed for unique entertainment. With local DJs performing regularly, it is an excellent place for more casual music fans, or anyone wanting to experience local DJ talent with friends – it’s hard if someone doesn’t enjoy music in a group, so this is an excellent choice for friends with different music tastes or groups who want a more social techo experience. And don’t worry if you’re not a golfing pro, it’s a hugely social space where people go to have lots of fun!
Address: Trent St, Birmingham, B5 5NL
If techo music is your thing, then Lab 11 is for you. Displaying some of the best up-and-coming and established DJ talent in the region, it’s not only a fantastic night out but a chance to experience some of the best in an innovative and rapidly changing genre of music. Set in a Digbeth warehouse not far from the centre of town, visitors to Lab 11 can enjoy a sociable evening in their outdoor space, complete with drinks and mood lighting, or head out later for a fantastic night of great music from all sorts of talents in one of their five performance spaces, the warehouse, terrace, arches, backroom and green house. It’s a great way to experience the local music scene, have an amazing club night and spend time with friends.
Address: High St, King’s Heath, Birmingham, B14 7JZ
Here is something a bit further out of town, if you’d prefer to explore new areas of Birmingham or try out some new, exciting live music. You’ll find a range of music to suit most tastes, although this place might be for fans of a slightly quieter sound than some others on our list. Classic ballads and acoustic sounds find themselves on the menu most nights a week, while still making room for more upbeat tunes to dance to. The venue itself is cosy and a lovely place just to go for a drink with friends or to spend the whole evening enjoying new and local talent. There are also two downstairs bars which host quiz nights every Wednesday nights and two upstairs venues which host all sorts of gigs for almost every genre.
Address: 36 Ludgate Hill, Birmingham, B3 1EH
If you’re looking for independent live music in a range of styles and genres, then the Actress and Bishop might just be for you. Upcoming events include James Gillespie, with smooth acoustic sounds and mastery of the balad; Esoterica and their gritty and dark image; and the Future Sounds Project, an ongoing project aimed at celebrating up-and-coming musical talent from the Midlands and surrounding areas. Whatever you like, there will be something to suit almost every taste here. The venue itself is cosy and a twist on the classic indie music bar, with its exposed wood and industrial exterior.
Bonus: Symphony Hall
When we say live music, we instantly think of huge stages lit up to the nines, complete with an 10,000 strong audience; or a trendy bar with up and coming talent. But music taste among students, like anyone, is diverse and Birmingham is a brilliant place to see live orchestral and choral music. The Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony Hall are wonderful places to see a range of classical music that celebrates the history and diversity of the city. Most recently (prior to closing due to COVID-19) they put on an arrangement of Tchaikovsky and a weekend of Beethoven’s music. There is something for everyone here!
So, whatever your taste in music, or even if you don’t particularly like music, there are lots of amazing places in Birmingham to watch live music with friends. It can be with a meal, with a quick drink, with golf or solely focused on the music. Whatever you’re into, the Birmingham music scene has got you covered.