An All-Inclusive Guide to Bristol's Music Societies

Whether you're a fresher eager to find out what uni life has to offer you or a returning student looking for new and exciting ways to spend your time, Bristol has plenty of societies to choose from - with many of those being music-related. As we are probably all too aware, the next academic year is upon us, which also means it's the perfect time to try out all sorts of extracurriculars and see what works best for you. Maybe you're already a Mozart in the making, or you might be Ariana at heart but your talents are yet to be discovered, or maybe you're just a music mega-fan looking for likeminded people to geek out with occasionally - either way, there's almost certainly something to tickle your fancy. Anyway, long story short, I researched the basics so you wouldn't have to* - so here's the lowdown.

The first few are for those interested in performing music themselves, but don’t fret (see what I did there?) if you’re only just starting out – most of them have various groups available which are designed to suit your needs! Please note: auditions for most of the auditioned groups are for a limited time only, so be sure to check. The rest will then (mostly) cover societies created for the sole purpose of bringing people together through their love of listening to music - it’s the perfect way to find people to enjoy your favourite genres and bands with (as well as discovering new ones, of course) and will probably provide you with countless new gig buddies!

A Capella Society

  • There are many different groups available, some auditioned and some non-auditioned
  • Open to all abilities and interests – whether you like singing as part of a trio or as part of a bigger group, whether you want to sing barbershop or cheesy pop, there’ll be something for you
  • Have won awards in recent years, so you can be sure you’re among the best!
  • Plenty of opportunities to perform
  • Regular socials and an annual Ball – the perfect opportunity to mingle and make friends

Big Band Society

  • One auditioned group, one non-auditioned group – caters for all abilities
  • Get to play pieces from many different genres and styles
  • Plenty of performance opportunities around Bristol’s wide range of venues (including paid gigs for skilled players!)
  • Free membership, always a plus
  • Annual tour – recent years have seen Big Band Soc take Barcelona and Amsterda

Bristol University Music Society (BUMS)

  • Perhaps for the more skilled among us – most ensembles are auditioned (start of TB1 only)
  • A range of orchestras and choirs to choose from depending on ability, style, and level of time commitment (be prepared for regular rehearsals)
  • Membership £12
  • Regular and varied socials, ranging from a casual pub quiz to a fancy ball (there’s also an annual tour)
  • Family system; a great way to make friends and settle in comfortably

DJ Society

  • Provides experience and advice for those interested in mixing and producing
  • Open to all abilities – caters for those wanting to learn the basics as well as already accomplished DJs looking for networking opportunities
  • All genres welcome
  • Free weekly beginner lessons and subsidised practice sessions at Basement 45 (only £1 for members!)
  • Many socials, as well as selected club night discounts for a cheap night out with your fellow DJs

Music Theatre Bristol (MTB)

  • One of the biggest performing arts societies
  • Two shows a year: a showcase, which consists of extracts from various musicals, and also a full musical
  • Special events such as 48hr musicals and themed cabarets, including a Newbies’ Cabaret, as well as workshops by industry professionals
  • All shows are proposed and voted for by members – LOTS of bonus points for democracy!
  • Hone your skills with weekly repertoire classes and performance opportunities
  • As always, plenty of socials – themed nights out, open mic nights, an annual ball, and a tour – plus a family system

Jazz, Funk, Soul Bristol

  • One of the few societies that is open to musicians AND listeners alike
  • Open jam sessions at Mr Wolf’s every Tuesday (keys, kit, bass & guitar provided so don’t worry if you don’t have all your stuff with you), followed by live music and DJs for the rest of the night
  • Guest performers from Bristol and beyond
  • Club night discounts and workshops (for the musicians) included in free membership

BristAlt

  • A musical free-for-all for anyone who likes even remotely left-field music, doesn’t matter how niche your tastes are
  • Aims to further its members’ appreciation and enjoyment of music, so be sure to go into it with an open mind
  • Many discounts available to members

Burst Radio

  • Any genre of music-based and speech-based shows welcome – plenty of scope for creativity and independence here
  • Range of opportunities available – you don’t even have to be behind the microphone if you don’t want to be, there are positions in Music, News, Production, Commercial and Tech/Programming on offer if any of those are more your thing
  • No experience required – new members are taught all the skills needed to be part of the team upon joining

Eurovision Society

  • Many events and socials to bring all Eurovision fans together, e.g. screenings of the contest, pub quizzes, karaoke nights - need I say more??

Hip-Hop Society

  • Listening parties, organised events and socials
  • Embraces all hip-hop, R&B and grime music, from artists worldwide right down to Bristol’s finest

LiveSoc

  • Another of the societies that welcomes both musicians and listeners, bringing people together to form bands, go to gigs, or even just listen to their favourite music together
  • Encourages members to fully embrace the exciting live music scene in Bristol, including providing the performers among them with open mic nights and gig opportunities
  • Discounts at Factory Studios and clubs around Bristol included in membership, which is £3 for standard and £5 for those who want access to band equipment (unlimited use of drums, amps & microphone in the SU)

Music Appreciation Society

  • Aims to bring people together through music
  • Regular organised events and gatherings where everyone can play music of their own choice through one of the streaming services available – a great way to discover new artists
  • Online platform to share your favourites with other members day-to-day
  • Collaborative events and many socials & nights out

RockSoc

  • Celebrates all things rock, punk and metal in a friendly, welcoming environment
  • Regular socials including club nights, gigs, karaoke nights, BBQs, movie nights, and open mic nights (members have been known to frequent Pressure Thursdays at Thekla in previous years)
  • Membership is £3.50 and includes discounts in more than a dozen venues

Hoepfully at least one of these sounds like your kind of thing, but don't worry if not - there are hundreds more societies for you to choose from, made available to you by Bristol SU (find the full list here). The most important thing to remember is that everyone wants to make sure you have the best experience for you, so if at any point you feel the need to do something a bit different, or meet some new people, there are people who will support you and make you feel welcome wherever you decide to go!

*Strongly recommend you don't totally trust my judgement and do a bit of research yourself too.