As with fashion, Scottish music isn’t all about the bagpipes and country dancing. The country is home to a wealth of internationally-renowned contemporary bands and artists currently gracing stages, speakers and soundtracks around the world. And that’s not to mention all the new Scottish bands that are critically acclaimed but not yet mainstream.
From funk to folk, rock, hip-hop, pop and punk - Scotland’s musical mixing desk has it all covered. Here are just some artists you know, some artists you should know, and some artists you soon will know…
Alternative rock band formed in Glasgow in 1998. The band released four acclaimed albums before their split in 2007.
Glasgow-based, folk/rock group formed in 2007. Their critically acclaimed first album Boots Met My Face was released worldwide in 2011 and their second in 2012. Their song Squealing Pigs was used on the NBC TV show Chuck, as well as featuring in a US commercial that first aired during theSuperbowlin 2012. The band has played at many festivals across the UK, as well as in the US.
Belle & Sebastian
Glasgow-based, indie/pop band formed in 1996. Since then the band has released eight studio albums, one live album and four compilation albums, as well as a string of EPs and singles.
Rock band formed in Kilmarnock in 1995. The band has received many accolades, winning two NME awards (one for Best Music Video in 2010 and Best Live Band in 2011), the 2011 Q Award for Best Live Band and the 2011 Kerrang! Award for Classic Songwriter, amongst others.The band has produced six studio albums and one live album, to date.
Internationally-renowned rock band formed in Dunfermline in 1981, by former Skids frontman the late Stuart Adamson. Theband’s sound was unique for its era, fusing rock with Scottish folk, incorporating bagpipes and fiddles. Their album The Crossing sold over a million copies in the UK and went gold in the US.
Pop band formed in Glasgow in 1985. Describing themselves as “soulful Scottish pop”, the band achieved international success with six million album sales, 12 UK top 40 singles and two number one albums. The band split in 1995 and members went on to pursue different careers (in broadcasting, acting and teaching, amongst others). However, they still reconvene to perform when the mood takes them.
Alternative rock band from Glasgow who cut their first single in 1983. They then went on to achieve great commercial success, touring in the UK, Europe and the US, gaining several Top 10 albums in the UK.
Neo-psychadelia art-rock quartet formed in 2009 at Edinburgh College of Art. Their debut, self-titled album - released in January 2012 -has been met with rave reviews and has been nominated for the coveted Mercury Music Prize.
Singer/songwriter from Aberdeenshire, whose name is on everyone’s lips at the moment, following magical performances in both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics.Emeli has written songs for artists such as Professor Green, Cher Lloyd, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole and TinieTempah. Her debut album peaked at number one in the UK, and has already earned her two UK number one singles.
Influential rock-band formed in Glasgow in 2002. The band won the Mercury Music Prize in 2004, and two BRIT Awards in 2005 for Best British Group and Best British Rock Act. NME also named their eponymous debut album as their Album of the Year. The band has been nominated for several Grammy awards, making them one of the few Scottish bands or artists to be so.
Indie rock band formed in Selkirk in 2003. With three studio albums and two EPs under their belt, the band has gone on to celebrate success in the US with appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The AV Club. The band’s songs have also appeared in TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Detroit 1-8-7, and in the trailer for the 2010 film The Beaver. The band supported Death Cab for Cutie on their 2011 North America tour.
Indie rock band formed in Edinburgh in 1995. They have released six full-length studio albums, the latest being in 2009. They played at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, have supported Coldplay and Pearl Jam on several occasions, and have opened shows for U2, REM and The Pixies.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist from St. Andrews first brought to the public ear in 2004 with a performance of her debut single Black Horse and the Cherry Tree on Later…with Jules Holland. She has enjoyed commercial and critical success since then, picking up three nominations before winning a BRIT Award for British Female Solo Artist and a Grammy Award nomination. She is also the recipient of an Ivor Novello Award.
Lau are a three piece band made up Kris Drever (guitar, vocals), Martin Green (accordion, piano) and Aidan O'Rourke (fiddle). They've been won best group at the Radio 2 Folk Awards three times and The Guardian recently called them Britain's best live band. Their music is instantly traditional and modern. Once in your head it is almost impossible get out.
Classical violinist from Ayrshire. Having made her debut at the Proms in 2010, this now internationally-celebrated musician has performed in solo recitals and with the most prestigious Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras around the world. She was BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004 and in 2008 was the winner of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classical Performer of the Year.
Singer/songwriter and musician from Paisley who has achieved wide international acclaim, both at home and around the world, with his two albums These Streets and Sunny Side Up. His songs regularly infiltrate US TV shows, featuring on Scrubs, One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI:Miami, CSI:NY, and in the Puma AG TV ad. He supported the Rolling Stones in Vienna, and has also graced the stage of the Carnegie Music Hall in New York, Montreux Jazz Festival, Glastonbury and Live Earth at Wembley.
Alternative rock band formed in Glasgow in 1982. They were a key part of the mid-1980s indie scene but it was not until their 1991 album Screamadelica that they broke into the mainstream. The album won the firstever Mercury Music Prize in 1992 and the band continue to perform today.
Rock band, originating from Glasgow and formed in 1977.In the mid-80s and early 90s they achieved world-wide popularity as well as racking up a number of critically acclaimed albums. However, they are probably best known for their number one single Don’t You (Forget About Me) from the soundtrack of John Hughes’ film The Breakfast Club. Other hits include Alive and Kicking which went to number threein the US, and Belfast Child which reached number onein the UK charts. The band has sold more than 60 million albums world-wide and continue to perform and tour today.
A Scottish/Northern Irish indie/alternative rock band formed at the University of Dundee in 1994. The band rose to national fame with major label debut Final Straw in 2003. The follow-up album Eyes Openpropelled the band to international fame. The band’s songs have featured on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and the soundtrack to the Spider-Man 3 feature film.
Needing no introduction, Susan Boyle rose to fame after appearing on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, singing I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. Her debut album remains the UK’s best-selling debut album of all time. Her rise to international fame was meteoric, and she has since made four albums, appeared widely on UK and US television, including Good Morning America, NBC’s Today and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and performed for dignitaries and audiences alike. A stage musical of her life opened in the UK in March 2012.
Alternative rock band formed in Bellshill in 1989. They have released 10 studio albums and two compilation albums in their 23 year history. The secret to the band’s longevity, they say, is that there are three principal songwriters in the band of four, allowing them to share the burden.
Glasgow pop band formed in 1986, featuring Sharleen Spiteri on vocals. The band’s debut single I Don’t Want A Lover was an international hit, as was their debut album.Since then, the band has released seven studio albums and one compilation album.Their song Put Your Arms Around Me featured in the movie Ever After: A Cinderella Story, starring Drew Barrymore.
The Average White Band
Soul, funk and R&B band from Dundee who had a series of soul and disco hits in the 70s and 80s. They are the 15th most sampled act in history, having been sampled by the likes of Beastie Boys, TLC, Ice Cube, Eric B. and Rakim, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and Arrested Development. Probably best known for their million-selling song Pick up the Pieces and their album Cut the Cake. Forty years after they first set up, the band is still performing.
Glasgow-based, indie rock band formed in 2005. They have released two albums - Costello Music in 2006 and Here We Stand in 2008. Costello Music charted at number two in the UK charts and earned the band a BRIT Award for Best British Breakthrough Act in 2007. The band embarked on a US tour with sold-out shows in New York City, Boston and LA. After a hiatus of three years, the band have just reformed and are performing again.
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Alternative rock band formed in East Kilbride in 1983 by brothers Jim and Williaim Reid. They released a string of albums, singles and EPs between their 1983 formation and their 1999 breakup. In 2007, the band reunited and played California’s Coachella festival where they were joined on stage by actress Scarlett Johansson for Just Like Honey (the band’s track which had featured in the film Lost in Translation). In March 2008, the band released a studio recording of All Things Must Pass on the soundtrack album to the NBC television drama Heroes.
The La Fontaines
Hip Hop infused pop from Lanarkshire. Very Scottish but with a distinctly American flavour. The band made up of Kerr Okan, John Gerard, Iain Findlay, Darren McCaughey and Jamie Keenan are, according to the Daily Record, renowned for their good-time party anthems. Sensational performances at T in the Park and air play on Radio 1 has seen the band's fanbase explode over the last few years.
Leith duo composed of identical twin brothers Charlie and Craig Reid. They formed the band in 1983 and singing in regional accents and about Scotland, they offered a distinct and personal sound. They are arguably best known for the songs I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles),I'm On My Way and Letter from America and their music has been used for many feature films and television seriesin the UK and US. They have released nine studio albums since 1987, as well as two compilation albums and a DVD. In 2011, out of the 15 songs chosen to feature in STV’s Scotland’s Greatest Album, the Proclaimers were given the unique honour of having two of their tracks, Sunshine on Leith and I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), included.
An art-punk/punk rock and new wave band from Dunfermline, founded in 1977. Their biggest success was the single Into the Valley, which reached the UK top 10 in 1979. After being tipped for the top by Radio 1 DJ John Peel, the band gained a coveted support slot for The Clash. Their song The Saints Are Coming was recorded in 2006 as a charity single by U2 and Green Day.
Indie rock band from Dundee, whose sound infuses punk, alternative rock, pop and folk. The band’s debut album, released in 2007, debuted at number one in the UK album chart and was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Music Prize. They have performed at festivals all over the UK including T in the Park, Reading and Leeds, and Glastonbury.
Post Brit-pop band from Glasgow, formed in 1991. Their second album The Man Who charted at number onein the UK albums chart, as did their third studio album The Invisible Band. This album scooped Best Album at the 2000 BRIT Awards, where Travis were also named Best Band, and went on to win two Ivor Novello Awards. The band is credited with inspiring a new wave of UK rock bands.
Wet Wet Wet
Pop rock band from Clydebank formed in the 1980s. The band had a rash of hits in the British charts and around the world in the 80s and 90s and produced nine albums. Without a doubt the band’s most successful single is Love Is All Around, from the soundtrack to the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. After spending 15 weeks at number one, lead singer Marti Pellow insisted on the song’s deletion after he grew bored of its chart dominance.The band reunited in 2004 and is still performing.
Live Music Venues
It’s no secret that Scottish audiences have been recognised by some of the world’s top bands as being among the best in the world. And that’s imply because Scotland loves live music. And we ‘do’ live music better than anyone. With a host of music venues – from the small and intimate to the large and raucous,spanning the length and breadth of the country, you’re never far away from a great gig in Scotland. Here are just some:
- Aberdeen Exhibition centre
- BA Club, Fort William
- The Barrowlands, Glasgow
- Corn Exchange, Edinburgh
- Electric Circus, Edinburgh
- Fat Sams, Dundee
- HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh
- Ironworks, Inverness
- King Tuts, Glasgow
- Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
- Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
- Nice n Sleazey, Glasgow
- O2 ABC, Glasgow
- O2 Academy, Glasgow
- SECC, Glasgow
- The Hydro, Glasgow
For a small country, Scotland certainly does have its fair share of music festivals. From traditional and folk to rock and pop, Scotland’s music festivals are among the best that you’re ever likely to experience.
The classical music scene is also thriving in Scotland, with many making a significant contribution to cultural life both in Scotland and internationally. They operate on a scale which distinguishes them from other performing arts organisations in Scotland, and which gives them a major presence on Scotland's largest stages and concert halls.
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) is one of Europe's leading symphony orchestras. Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1991. Throughout its proud history, the Orchestra has played an important part in Scotland's musical life, including performing at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004.
Many renowned conductors have contributed to its success, including Walter Susskind, Sir Alexander Gibson, Bryden Thomson, Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi, Conductor Emeritus Walter Weller, Conductor Emeritus Alexander Lazarev and most recently, Stéphane Denève.
The RSNO performs across Scotland, including concerts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness, as well as international performances in France, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Serbia. The Orchestra will visit mainland Asia for the first time in 2012-13 with a tour to China over Hogmanay and the first week of the New Year.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) is internationally recognised as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world. Formed in 1974 with a commitment to serve the Scottish community, it is also one of Scotland’s foremost cultural ambassadors. The Orchestra performs throughout Scotland, and appears regularly at the Edinburgh, East Neuk, St Magnus and Aldeburgh Festivals and the BBC Proms. Its busy touring schedule has recently included many European countries as well as India and the USA.
Based at the City Halls, Glasgow, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is another internationally-recognised symphony orchestra. Formed in December 1935 by Scottish composer and conductor Ian Whyte, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has won several awards, including a Royal Philharmonic Society Award and four Gramophone Awards. Its wide repertoire and flexible approach means it can perform complex contemporary pieces alongside major symphonic works.
Scotland is also home to several leading composers including James MacMillan, Sally Beamish, Lyell Cresswell and the Queen’s own composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, all of whom regularly collaborate with the Scottish orchestras.
Glasgow was named a UNESCO City of Music in August 2008, making it the second Scottish city to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature).The title recognises Glasgow’s musical riches, the vibrancy of its music scene and its role as a world player in music. Glasgow’s music scene spans many genres, including both their production and performance. In preparing its bid for UNESCO status, Glasgow counted an average of 130 music events a week ranging from pop and rock to Celtic music and opera. Whether it is contemporary, classical, Celtic or Country, Glasgow has some of the most famous music venues in the UK and a thriving music industry. It also has some of the most recognised qualifications in higher education in music.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Glasgow CIty of Music
Scottish Chamber Orchestra