Following study at Merton College, Oxford, the Royal Academy of Music and the Chopin Academy, in Warsaw he became a freelance pianist, specialising particularly in song repertoire. He has collaborated with many singers, and was particularly close friends with the late soprano Susan Chilcott. Burnside is the godfather of Chilcott's son, Hugh, and following her death in 2003 became his legal guardian.
Other vocalists he has worked and recorded with include Laura Claycomb, Matthew Rose, Roderick Williams, with whom he has recorded the complete Finzi baritone songs, and most recently Sarah Connolly, with a release of songs by Korngold.
After presenting the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, he became a presenter on Radio 3, for many years fronting the weekly song-orientated show Voices for which he won a Sony Radio Award. Later he began presenting the Sunday morning programme. He also wrote the musical play A Soldier and a Maker on the life of Ivor Gurney, premiered in 2012.
- Iain Burnside at the BBC Radio 3 website.
- India Knight, "Saved by a guardian angel" in The Times, September 14, 2003
- Andrew Clements, "Finzi: I Said to Love; Let Us Garlands Bring; Before and After Summer: Williams/ Burnside" in The Guardian, Friday 6 May 2005
- Discography at classicsonline.com
- Iain Burnside at the Hyperion Records website.
- Iain Burnside (programme) at the BBC Radio 3 website.