Starting out as a teenage roadie in the punk era at clubs including Soho’s Vortex, he formed the Tortch Records label in the early 1980s, releasing the debut singles by cult artists The Sound, Second Layer, The Directions and The Cardiacs. He went on to manage The Sound, The Directions and The Big Sound Authority, with whom he had his first top 30 success.
He was then asked to manage renowned record producer Tony Visconti and his Good Earth Recording studio in London’s Soho and in 1985 he founded Stephen Budd Management, focusing on the promotion and management of record producers, remixers, songwriters and recording engineers.
Later he went on to manage influential bands Heaven 17 and Gang of Four as well as British pop/folk singer-songwriter Tanita Tikaram and The Magic Numbers
Over the years he has represented notable record producers including Jon Kelly, Mick Glossop, Craig Leon, Chris Kimsey, Steve Levine, Gus Dudgeon, Billy Steinberg, Gary Katz and Mike Hedges. Artists who have had hit records written and/or produced by Budd's clients during his representation include; New Radicals, Take That, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Dido, Santana, U2, Manic Street Preachers, The Cure, Lykke Li, Lana del Rey, Björk, Nelly Furtado, Franz Ferdinand, John Legend, Cee-Lo, Bonnie Prince Billy, Feist, Chase & Status and many others. Clients of Budd’s winning or nominated with major awards during his representation include; Mike Hedges (Music Week Producer of the Year, Brit Award for Producer of the Year), Tore Johansson (Music Week Producer of the Year), Rick Nowels (Grammy), Simon Gogerly (Grammy).
In 1999 Budd co-founded SuperVision Management with partner Paul Craig, (which went on to represent Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, White Lies, The Vaccines, The Cribs, Crystal Castles) and sold it to Channelfly PLC, becoming a long-term director of that company until it was absorbed by MAMA Group PLC and subsequently HMV PLC. Following the changes of ownership, key staff left the company and its operation was closed down. Budd's former company is unrelated to management firm Supervizion, which pre-dates the UK firm with several years and is still in operation.
In 2003 he founded Pollination Music Publishing, signing superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold and his Perfecto Records.
In 2004 he created the ‘Passport: Back to the Bars’ charity concert project to raise money for Warchild and Shelter. The project featured Amy Winehouse, The Cure, David Gray, Super Furry Animals, Elbow, Badly Drawn Boy, Spiritualised, The Sugababes and many more. The 2015 edition featured Duran Duran, The Vaccines, You Me At Six, Bastille, Elbow and Ride and raised over £500,000 for Warchild and won the 'Best Use Of Events' awards at the National Fundraising Awards. The 2016 series was announced on 20 January 2016, was renamed Passport To BRITs Week and featured Coldplay, Jack Garratt, Bring Me The Horizon, Bloc Party, Frank Turner, Professor Green, Jamie xx, Above & Beyond, Lianne La Havas and Florence And The Machine
Much of his later career has focused on bringing together musicians from different cultures. In 2007 the Africa Express project was formed with musician Damon Albarn, journalist Ian Birrell and others. The project aims to bring African music into the mainstream through musical collaborations with Western artists. Artists who have featured in Africa Express to date include; Amadou & Mariam, Baba Maal, Basement Jaxx, Bombay Bicycle Club, Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, De La Soul, Fatboy Slim, Femi Kuti, Franz Ferdinand, Johnny Marr, John Paul Jones, Dead Prez, Laura Mvula, Martha Wainwright, Mew (band), Mick Jones, Nicolas Jaar, Oumou Sangaré, Paul McCartney, Peter Hook, Rokia Traore, Salif Keita, Songhoy Blues, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Noisettes, Tony Allen, Toumani Diabaté, Brian Eno, Kasabian, Ghostpoet, Django Django, M, Fatoumata Diawara and many more. In 2012 Africa Express featured as a part of the London 2012 Festival, a part of the Cultural Olympiad. In 2014 a CD "Africa Express presents Maison de Jeunes" was released on Transgressive Records featuring musical collaborations recorded in Mali by Damon Albarn, Brian Eno, Ghostpoet, Django Django and others. In 2014 he was Executive Producer for 'Africa Express presents Terry Riley's In C at The Tate Modern' and the subsequent interactive film and the 'Africa Express presents Terry Riley's Mali In C' album released on Transgressive Records. which won ‘Best Group’ at The Songlines Awards 2016. In 2015 Africa Express performed at the Roskilde Festival which generated international publicity.
In 2010 he joined UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s trade mission to India. There he co-founded the NH7 Weekender Festival which has featured artists including Mark Ronson, Mogwai, Flying Lotus, The Wailers, AR Rahman, Imogen Heap, The Vaccines, Megadeth, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Jon Hopkins, SBTRKT, Karnivool, Chase & Status, Bombay Bicycle Club, Asian Dub Foundation, Basement Jaxx, The Magic Numbers, Fear Factory, Seun Kuti, Benga, MUTEMATH, Simian Mobile Disco, Dry the River, Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights Music, Fink and many others. It is the first festival of its kind in the sub continent.
In April 2011 he co-founded OneFest in Wiltshire, England which has featured artists including Laura Marling, Damien Rice and Damon Albarn
In October 2016 it was announced he had joined advisory board of Palestine Music Expo (PMX), a three-day live music showcase that aims to shine the spotlight on its little-known music scene, due to take place April 5–7, 2017 in Ramallah, Haifa and Jerusalem
He has presented educational programs for The British Council in Nigeria, India, China and Uganda and has given speeches at music conferences and events around the world including In the City (UK), FUSE Festival (Australia), M for Montreal (Canada), Tallinn Music Week (Estonia), Resonate (NZ), Kingston University (UK), Music Producers Guild (UK), Nokia Music Connects (India), SeeMe (Bulgaria) and The Great Escape (UK).
He is a founder and long term board member of the MMF (Music Managers Forum) trade association and created its Producer Managers Group.
He has appeared on numerous TV shows including BBC Breakfast, BBC World, BBC News, CNN, Al Jazeera, Channel 4's Battlefront series, and Sky News and chaired the judges for two series of MTV's Get Seen Get Heard talent show. He has been interviewed in various music biographies including Take That – Now and Then by Martin Roach and 'How to Have a No.1 Hit Single' by Jonathan Maitland.
He has been interviewed numerous times on radio, including BBC Radio 5, BBC Africa, BBC Radio 4's 'Front Row (radio)' show, Resonance FM and Monocle 24 and DJ’d for Dazed Digital
He makes appearances or is interviewed in music documentaries; The Africa Express (about the music project of which he is a director), They Will Have To Kill Us First (about the artist Songhoy Blues) and Walking In The Opposite Direction (about the artist Adrian Borland and The Sound).
He has chaired Eurovision Song Contest selection panels for Georgia and Azerbaijan.
He has been invited by the UK Parliament to give evidence to the Culture Media and Sport committee on the UK Governments role in supporting the creative industries.
He has chaired the Music and Film panel at the African Creative Industries Investment Summit (ACIIS) 2013.