Sam Hayden studied composition with Martin Butler, Michael Finnissy and Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex, Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, and Brian Ferneyhough at Stanford University.

He has been the recipient of many awards including first prize in the 1995 Benjamin Britten International Competition and the 2003 Christoph Delz Foundation Competition for Composers. He has undertaken residencies at the Civitella Ranieri Center (Umbria) and the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart) and computer music collaborations with Notam (Oslo) and the Centre Henri Pousseur (Liège). His work uses computer-assisted compositional techniques combining spectralist and stochastic approaches.

Recent commissions include works for Duo Antongirolami-Selva, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Séverine Ballon, Christopher Redgate and Cikada Ensemble, ELISION Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Ensemble Mosaik, Frode Haltli and Oslo Sinfonietta, Quatuor Diotima, RepertorioZero and Steamboat Switzerland, performed at festivals including Ars Musica (Brussels), BBC Proms, Música Contemporánea Fundación BBVA (Bilbao), Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Utrecht), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Festival Images Sonore (Liège), London Ear Festival, MaerzMusik (Berlin), Musik im 21. Jahrhundert (Saarbrücken), Spitalfields Winter Festival, Tage für Neue Musik (Zürich), Ultima Festival (Oslo) and Warsaw Autumn. Hayden is a professor of composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.