Stefan Kucharczyk takes the temperature of the city's current music scene...
With local post-rockers Editors currently wooing critics on the back of the success of their debut album, The Back Room, Birmingham's music scene could arguably have its first champions on the national stage for the first time since Ocean Colour Scene exploded from Moseley in 1996.
Surely the time is ripe for Birmingham's emergent music talent to follow in their wake and burst into the glittering spotlight of stardom. Isn't it?
City-based record executive, Barry Tomes thinks it is. Owner of Birmingham's Gotham Records and international music promoter, Barry has worked with music artists the world over for almost 35 years.
With the high-profile success of Birmingham band Editors, he is in no doubt that local musicians could easily capitalise on their success.
"The quality of local, emerging music talent is better now than it has ever been", explains Barry.
"It's not just rock bands either, the quality is there in all genres. Some of our young hip-hop artists are as good as any you will hear anywhere".
So why are we hearing so little from other Birmingham artists outside of the city's pubs and gig halls?
"The bands themselves are too parochial", observes Barry.
"It is so much cheaper and easier to record, to distribute, to travel and promote your music than it ever used to be. Just look at the changes the internet has brought to the music industry."
It is a shrewd observation. One only has to look at the success of Sheffield's Artic Monkeys in developing a global following by making their material free to download from the internet. With only one single released, they are already on the brink of superstardom for the coming year.
In Barry's view, the problem obstructing the progress of many new artists is one of local perspective: "There is only so many times you can play the Flapper and Firkin. If that is the extent of your ambition, then that is as good as you will ever be.
"To really succeed in this industry, bands need to be passionate and professional. They need to look at the bigger picture - the global picture".
Director of the Birmingham Music Network, Mark Sampson, does not agree that the onus lies fully with musicians. A non-commercial organisation founded in 2000, the BMN has the explicit aim of helping local artists to promote themselves on local, national and global platforms.
He feels that there are substantial problems in the region, preventing local bands reaching mass audiences.
"A major obstacle is a lack of coordination", said Mark.
"There are enough talented artists in Birmingham, and there are enough venues. They are just not getting enough support from within the region."
Mark challenges the local media to show more support to the city's musicians: "Local radio certainly needs to give local bands more air-time. The lack of publicity in Birmingham and the West Midlands also means that people remain largely unaware of what is going on."
With financial support from the Learning Skills Council, the Birmingham Music Network launched 'From the Region' in 2005, a multi-genre promotional album, exclusively showcasing West Midlands based artists.
The BMN employed the help of Barry Tomes to promote the album to record licensing companies and media representatives around the world.
Indeed, his act-local-think-global policy certainly seems to be paying dividends.
Local ambient-acoustic outfit, Sleepyhead, a darling of the Birmingham gig circuit, and who feature on 'From the Region', are already garnering interest from several major labels.
Mark Sampson has hailed the album as 'a formidable success' for local music.
All in all, 2005 was a good year for Birmingham's burgeoning music scene and many local artists have enjoyed commercial success.
One of the region's most widely respected bands, Misty's Big Adventure from Kings Norton, saw the release of Black Hole, their most commercially successful album to date and a slot supporting the highly-acclaimed Magic Numbers.
They also claim the ironic prestige of having a single banned by the BBC for its alleged swipes against Tony Blair. Quirky, jazz-pop act Guillemots, the band of local singer-songwriter Fyfe 'Dangerfield' Hutchins, have also been attracting significant interest.
In the BBC's recent Sound of 2006 internet poll, Guillemots were ranked at number five out of 100 of the nations emerging bands and there is already talk of their contention for next years Mercury Music Prize.
In a smaller world, vision and ambition are clearly as vital attributes for aspiring superstars as talent and passion.
As the Birmingham Music Network proved with 'From the Region', there is no shortage of talented musicians in Birmingham. Whether that talent is real enough to turn local interest into international recognition is another matter.
Only the next 12 months will tell whether the city's emerging artists can sieze their chance, and mark Birmingham on the map of the world in 2006. ..SUPL: