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Independent and underground: Welcome to Brum’s exciting music scene

In Birmingham, you don’t have to look far to find world-class music. And The Rainbow pub’s where it all kicks off

With the 2015 BBC Music Awards coming to Birmingham in December, the city's thriving music scene is in the spotlight.

Brummie live bands and venues cater to practically all tastes: you can go out any night of the week and find somewhere playing music you love.

Just look at The Rainbow for starters. The colourfully-named Victorian pub in Digbeth's Irish Quarter is one of Birmingham's biggest independent music venues.

We spoke to DJ and promoter Lee McDonald, who has been bringing underground music upstairs and outside at The Rainbow for 12 years.

What is it you love about working and living in Birmingham?

Brum's a city that's going through a metamorphosis, and being here while that happens is just amazing. It's been home to some really colourful and vibrant underground venues in its time.

I've been lucky enough to see the city's music scene develop on my own doorstep – and to be part of that change with The Rainbow Venues.

It's a central, accessible city, so when you're out it's so easy to bump into people you know. There's also a real push to keep things local.

For instance, we use suppliers and small businesses in the Birmingham area for all our alcohol.

How has your career been influenced by being based in the city?

In a strange way, I've been influenced by what wasn't here at one time. I wanted to bring what I felt was missing to the music scene in Brum - something raw and exciting.

The city needed to have some new spaces with big personalities and charisma to draw people in.

The Rainbow's grown in line with my own work. And getting bigger has meant we've invited some of the world's most prolific underground artists to come and do shows in Birmingham.

What does Birmingham sound like to you?

It depends where you're standing at the time! Underneath every style and genre, you can hear a constant beat.

That's the heartbeat of the independent scene here. You can hear the passion of the people who make music in their sounds.

A decade or so ago, there was a lot of trance and funky house music during the 'superclub' era. Nowadays, I'd say the box for every genre is pretty much ticked: ska, rock, punk, house, dance etc.

Everything's constantly evolving, so each time you go out you'll unearth something new.

Where can we hear it?

Well, obviously they can come to The Rainbow , and the rest of the Digbeth area's got plenty of clubs, bars and other venues.

If the city's music is its heartbeat, then the rooms, basements and outdoor spaces are where you put your finger on the pulse.

There are a lot of cool independent venues opening and getting a name for themselves, such as The Night Owl , The Victoria , The Jekyll & Hyde and so on.

To experience the best of the city, you have to step away from commercialised brands and discover the little pockets of individuality.

Brum's more than just a bull and the shopping centre, and there are people hard at work making that change.

Do you think Birmingham's underground music scene should stay underground?

The underground's a great place to start for a lot of people, but that doesn't mean restricting their music or their sound.

In many ways, it doesn't stay there anyway. Up-and-coming local bands are really encouraged and supported here.

People from the London scene might look at Brum as being 'second best' but that's just not the case. Birmingham's scene definitely gets attention . A lot of that starts online now – the 'middle men' between artists and audiences have disappeared.

With the internet and social media, it's a lot easier for talented underground acts to be discovered by both music fans and influential people.

So this is what Lee thinks – how do you feel about the thriving underground scene in Brum?

Tell us what you think about the Birmingham underground music scene and you could be in with a chance to WIN 2 tickets to the BBC music awards on 10th December at the Genting Arena, visit the Birmingham Culture Facebook page to find out more.

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