Steve Martland was born on 10 October 1954 in Liverpool and studied composition in Holland with Louis Andriessen. His preoccupation with the function of the composer in society was reflected in his commitment to music education. He directed many composition projects in schools both at home and abroad and he ran Strike Out, his own annual composition course for school children.

Martland rejected academic dogma in favour of a plurality of musical influences, both ancient and modern, ‘serious’ and vernacular. He worked frequently with artists outside classical institutions - Dutch and American groups, freelance musicians and especially his own Steve Martland Band touring his music internationally. In 1998 he collaborated with the band Spiritualized on a project for the Flux Festival in Edinburgh. His music has been adapted frequently for film and TV use, and scores for TV include the multi-media Albion, commissioned by the BBC and Granada TV’s Children’s drama Wilderness Edge. He also wrote and directed A Temporary Arrangement with the Sea, a film about Louis Andriessen commissioned by the BBC in co-production with NOS, Holland.

Martland’s large orchestral work Babi Yar (1983) was premiered almost simultaneously in the USA by the St. Louis Sympony under Leonard Slatkin and in the UK by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Nicholas Cleobury; it was subsequently recorded for the legendary Factory label. Martland re-edited the score and the first performance of the revised version was given in Glasgow by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Jurjen Hempel as part of a complete Martland evening, supported by the BBC /RPS Encore project.

Often amplified, muscular and powerfully rhythmic, Martland's music has been extensively choreographed: Drill for the Sydney Opera House, Crossing the Border for the National Ballet, Amsterdam. Danceworks, commissioned and premièred by London Contemporary Dance Theatre, has received many new productions around the world, notably by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Ballet Tech in New York. Remix was awarded the SACD Prize for Video Dance Choreography Music after choreographed for BBCTV by Aletta Collins. In 2005, Martland was commissioned by the Henri Oguike Dance Company resulting in Tiger Dancing which remains in the company's repertory.
His widely performed choral music includes Street Songs, originally written for the King’s Singers and Evelyn Glennie and later presented by the Monteverdi Choir and Colin Currie under John Eliot Gardiner with a film by the Quay brothers; and Tyger Tyger for Youth Music’s nationwide Sing Up campaign. Martland was composer in residence at the ETNA Music Festival in Sicily in 2006 and 2007. More recent commissions included the test piece for the TROMP International Music Festival and Competition, Starry Night for percussion and string quartet, and Sea Songs for Ars Nova Copenhagen conducted by Paul Hillier. Martland died unexpectedly on 7 May, 2013.