One of the Midlands’ longest-standing music industry initiatives will mark 10 years of supporting producers, DJs, and the wider music community in the region with a major special event in Birmingham.

Listening Sessions, an artist development and live showcase initiative, will celebrate a decade of work in the region with performances from over 25 producers and artists at Digbeth venue PST on Friday 1 December - with 100% of the music played produced by those performing. The long-term project, which grew out of the online ‘Birmingham Producers Community’ group, has gone on to deliver hundreds of events featuring emerging and established music creators across the city since its inception in 2013, and partnered with key colleges, festivals and universities in the Midlands to encourage music-making and sharing at multiple levels.

Listening Sessions co-founders Tom Hayes and Mat Goose, both Birmingham-based electronic music producers who have achieved commercial and artistic success with their own releases as Elkie and Goosensei, came together to form the brand with the aim of encouraging collaboration amongst fellow creators. Mat underlines the role Listening Sessions has played in collectivising professionals working in the city region’s electronic music scene, saying: “We knew there were lots of talented producers in Birmingham, but felt like the events happening in the city at the time were not wholly reflecting the diversity of electronic music, nor did we have a way of sharing productions, ideas and opportunities.”

The two producers worked together to create an open application model dedicated to helping gather producers together outside their respective studio spaces, and meeting in a relaxed venue or club setting to showcase music, network, collaborate and foster more co-working. Co-founder, Tom Hayes, said: “We’ve worked hard to provide something in Birmingham that didn't fully exist previously - a community that spans across genres and scenes to bring all music lovers together. 

“Listening Sessions is shaped more by the community involved than it is by ourselves. We’ve always maintained the ethos of no control - if you have music you want to play then we want to hear it. There’s no application process; just turn up with a USB stick with your own music on and go for it.”

Over the past 10 years, regular showcases, performances and one-off shows under the Listening Sessions umbrella have been hosted at venues across Birmingham including PST (where the initiative was initially based), Dark Horse Moseley, Hare & Hounds Kings Heath, and the Wagon & Horses (now Dead Wax Digbeth). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Listening Sessions team moved to an online model delivering radio show-style formats to ensure artists and producers continued to receive support and profile, as well as providing a much-welcomed means of group communication during lockdown and venue closures.

The work that the initiative has undertaken over the last 10 years to bring like-minded creators together has supported to a number of organic outcomes, including the launch of record labels Ghost Snares, 0121 Recordings and Circular Jaw. Music releases made by members of the Listening Sessions community have received support from national DJs, playlists, industry figures, media outlets and music brands; including Jossy Mitsu, Rupture London, Madam X, Rinse FM, Om Unit, Mixmag, BBC Radio 1 and TMRW.

Mat recognises the importance of artist development within the Listening Sessions model, saying: “Some of my favourite highlights over the years have been seeing artists develop, seeing how tracks turn from initial sketches at showcases to being played and championed by some of the best DJs of their generation at major festivals and shows. This milestone is a real celebration of staying true to our grassroots ethos for 10 years solid.

“One of the main driving forces that kept us going over the years is hearing the heartwarming feedback from so many producers about how much Listening Sessions means to them - in terms of inspiration and motivation for them to create music. We are really eager to broaden opportunities for underrepresented groups in electronic music so have connected with a number of local collectives leading the charge for gender and diversity equality, and currently we are teaming up with High Key and Sisterhood to encourage more diversity within Birmingham's music producer community.”

Income from ticket sales for the Listening Sessions 10th birthday event will be donated to Safe Passage, an international charity that works to open and defend safe legal routes and reunite children with their families in the UK and Europe. Safe Passage undertakes strategic legal casework, advocacy, campaigning, practitioner training and lobbies governments.

Tom explains the support by Listening Sessions for Safe Passage, saying: “Yasmine, an artist who’s playing at our birthday event, mentioned she wanted to donate her fee to the charity, which really struck a chord with us.

“One of the amazing things about the strength of the Listening Sessions community is that we have the ability to support others around the world in any way we can. We’ve done this in the past with our events and a diverse set of recipients - supporting Safe Passage this is a fulfilling use of the money we raised.”

Artists and producers performing at Listening Sessions 10th birthday party include: Anjin, Big Choc, Bogus, Daddy G, Delta, Dirty Bulk, Elkie, Emil, Entropy b2b Prodigal, Goosensei, Komatose, Misha, Music Orbe, Natty D, Natural Selecta, Rawtrachs, Real Velour, Reedy b2b Stanlee, Ringers, Slaine b2b J-Dok, Trafic, Wooda b2b Yilan, and Yasmine. Looking ahead to the future of Listening Sessions, Tom says: “For us, it’s all about seeing everyone progress.

“There are a lot of members of the community that have had success with their music now. We’d really like to keep building on that success by working with inspirational brands, businesses and organisations in the city and beyond - encouraging young people to engage with music production on a grassroots level is incredibly important to us.”

Tickets for the Listening Sessions 10th Birthday special event, priced £5 plus a £1 booking fee, are available from Skiddle.