Across the history of modern music, the British Isles has been responsible for creating more unique city-based music scenes than anywhere else in the world.
Whether it’s London’s punk, Birmingham’s heavy metal, Bristol’s trip hop, Brighton’s big beat, Madchester or even Dublin’s distinctive folk, Britain and Ireland have long led the way in the development of new musical genres. But is there one particular city which you relate to above all others? We’ve teamed up with the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) – Europe’s largest and leading contemporary music college – to give you a run down of some of the best cities to study music in.
A city so monumental in music that a genre based on its very name sprung directly from its streets. During the heady days of Madchester in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Manchester was the centre of the known universe, with bands such as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans and James taking charge of a scene whose epicentre was firmly planted at New Order’s Haçienda nightclub.
But Manchester’s musical greatness existed well before this – with Joy Division, Buzzcocks and The Smiths putting the town on the map – and it hasn’t waned since, producing stadium fillers Oasis, The Verve, Elbow, The Chemical Brothers… and even Take That. If you like solid guitar rifts and the chance to walk in the footsteps of some modern rock legends, then get yourself to BIMM Manchester.
If you’re a bit of a chameleon when it comes to music, then perhaps London’s where you should be. The city’s melting pot of musical styles is perfect for those with eclectic tastes. Whether it’s classical, pop, reggae, ska, electro swing, punk, indie or house you’re into, you’ll find it in the national’s capital.
Some big names to hail from the city include ‘60s bands The Who, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones, ‘70s punk mavericks the Sex Pistols and The Clash, Britpop chart slayers Blur and Suede, and more modern success stories such as West Norwood’s Adele and grime scene kings, Skepta and Stormzy. If you’re keen to experience a little bit of everything as a music student, then you can’t go past London!
Despite its musical history evoking images as diverse as mods and rockers, Abba’s Eurovision win and the rise of student folk heroes The Levellers, it’s difficult to talk about Brighton without mentioning Fatboy Slim and the electronic music genre ¬– big beat – that enveloped around him and other Brightonians, such as Midfield General and Cut La Roc, in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The scene centred around Skint Records’ legendary club night ‘The Big Beat Boutique’ held at what is still Brighton’s favourite live music venue, The Concorde, and was responsible for a series of epic free parties hosted by Fatboy Slim on Brighton seafront in 2001 and 2002, cleverly named ‘The Big Beach Boutique’.
Since then, the city has heralded many great bands and artists, including BIMM alumni The Kooks, Royal Blood, British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade, The Go! Team and Rizzle Kicks. So if you like your music slightly ‘indie’ and are always on the lookout for the next big thing, then Brighton’s where you need to head.
Generally considered as the birthplace of both Brumbeat and bhangra in the ‘60s, and heavy metal in the ‘70s, Birmingham also lay at the heart of the development of British soul and grindcore in the ‘80s. Some of the world’s biggest musical names have hailed from the city, including Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, UB40, ELO, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Streets and Editors.
But you’d be wrong if you thought the city’s music history was a thing of the past – it’s now considered to be one of the most exciting places in Europe to discover new music thanks, in part, to the B-Town indie scene which has cropped up around the suburb of Digbeth. Bands like Swim Deep, Peace and Troumaca have gained recent music press attention… along with new kids on the block including Cut Glass Kings, The Assist, GLEAM and Swerve. So, if you want to try to make it big as part of the UK’s newest and coolest music scene, then make your way to Birmingham.
If you love your music electronic and are a regular on the dance scene, then you can’t go past Bristol as a place to study. The creative West Country city is home to two-man music collective Massive Attack who, along with fellow Bristolians, Portishead, were widely accredited with founding trip hop back in the ‘90s… as well as local musicians like Tricky and Roni Size who helped to make the city the hottest place in the country. These days, local bands and artists continue to take their influences from the trip hop pioneers, and dub-infused genres like dubstep and drum’n’bass prevail.
Music is, and always has been, at Dublin’s very core. Every night of the week you’ll hear the sound of live music pulsing through the city’s legendary venues, bars and pubs, as well as the noisy hum of punters everywhere having a good time. The soundtrack to Dublin is as varied as it comes – from traditional Irish music, like The Dubliners, and U2’s stadium rock antics, to Imelda May’s rockabilly vibe, My Bloody Valentine’s indie credentials and The Script’s radio-friendly pop. If, above all, you’re after a friendly and authentic place to cut your musical teeth, then Dublin’s definitely for you.
Berlin is, quite simply, a musicians’ paradise. Many moons ago it played host to classical giants like Bach and Wagner, but there are good reasons why so many modern artists – such as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and U2 – have fled to the city for inspiration in recent decades too. The metropolis is a magnet for musical talent; forever pushing creative boundaries. Whether it’s big name concert halls, smoky jazz joints, sophisticated opera houses or dingy indie bars you’re after, Berlin has something for every taste.
These days, the European city is widely considered to be the capital of techno music and its world-renowned clubs attract the best names around. So, if you’re keen to study music in a city abuzz with creativity and in a constant state of flux, then get yourself to Berlin.
Music's coolest exchange programme
Discover these musical cities first-hand for yourself with BIMM – as from October 2017, BIMM students will be able to complete music degrees across two BIMM colleges, with the option to study in two European music cities: London, Berlin, Brighton, Manchester, Bristol or Birmingham*. This means you can begin your studies at one BIMM college, before transferring to another BIMM college for your second year, and then decide whether you remain in your new city for your third year or return to your ‘home’ college.
Vaseema Hamilton, BIMM’s Executive Principal, says: “The benefits of studying in one or more musical cities can’t be underestimated – you’ll gain first-hand experience of two very different music scenes and will make enviable networking contacts across both regions. It’s the perfect way to develop your musical style and launch your career in the industry.”
For more information about studying with BIMM, or to discover your perfect BIMM location, visit www.bimm.co.uk
*Terms and conditions apply