|Sheeran performing at the Ipswich Arts Festival in July 2010|
Sheeran began recording music in 2004, and independently released his first collection of work, Spinning Man. He has been friends with fellow English singer, Passenger, since he was 15, with the two playing on the same gig in Cambridge. He moved to London in 2008, and began playing in small venues. In 2008, he auditioned for the ITV series, Britannia High. He also opened for Nizlopi in Norwich in April 2008, after being one of their guitar technicians. He released another EP in 2009, You Need Me, just before going on tour with Just Jack. He also did a few collaborations with Essex singer, Leddra Chapman, including CeeLo Green's "Fuck You". In February 2010, Sheeran posted a video through SB.TV, and rapper Example invited Sheeran to tour with him. In the same month, he also released his critically acclaimed Loose Change EP, which featured his future debut single, "The A Team". In the autumn of 2009, Sheeran began studying music at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey as an undergraduate, though it is not clear how long he remained at the college.
Sheeran began to be seen by more people over the internet through YouTube and his fan-base grew, with him also getting credit from The Independent newspaper, England football captain Rio Ferdinand and Elton John.Sheeran also self-released two other EPs in 2010, Ed Sheeran: Live at the Bedford and Songs I Wrote with Amy, which is a collection of love songs he wrote in Wales with singer, Amy Wadge.
On 8 January 2011, Sheeran released another independent EP, No. 5 Collaborations Project, featuring grime artists such as Wiley, Jme, Devlin, Sway and Ghetts.With this EP, Sheeran gained mainstream attention for reaching number 2 in the iTunes chart without any promotion or label, selling over 7,000 copies in its first week. Three months later, Sheeran put on a free show to fans at the Barfly in Camden Town. Over 1,000 fans turned up, so Sheeran played four different shows to ensure everyone saw a gig, including a gig outside on the street after the venue had closed. Later that month, Sheeran was signed to Asylum Records.