Erich Stem’s music has been described as "sophisticated and intriguing" (The Washington Post), "unique and beautiful" (Boston Theatre Review), and as having a "fluent and chaotic exchange that breaks minimalism apart" (A Closer Listen). It pulls from a variety of sources, including American jazz, Japanese shakuhachi music, and Stem's interest in improvisation. His music has been performed live around the globe in places such as New York City, Boston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Miami, England, the Netherlands, and Romania and can be heard on albums by critically acclaimed groups such as counter)induction, Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, and the Cadillac Moon Ensemble. His commissions include music for recognized artists such as saxophonist Johan van der Linden and flutist Lindsey Goodman.
Groups such as the Minnesota Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and many others have performed/broadcasted his orchestral works in venues such as Minnesota’s Orchestra Hall, The Carpenter Theatre at CenterStage, WUOL 90.5FM’s Brave New World, and WCVE 88.9FM’s Whitlow Concert Series with Bobbie Barajas. More recently, his affinity for the history and towns of the United States led to a larger orchestral project called America By: A Symphonic Tour. A consortium of American orchestras has commissioned works from Stem during the tour, with each piece representing the unique attributes and history of the residing orchestra's hometown. The pilot took place on Bainbridge Island, Washington featuring premiere performances of "Bainbridge" by the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra, followed by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's premiere of "Kentucky By" later that year. More recent and upcoming performances include a commission by the University of Portland Orchestra for the 2017-18 season and a commission by the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2018-19 season.
Stem has also made the promotion of today’s art music an important part of his career. In 2005, he founded New Dynamic Records, with a mission of discovering and recording works by living composers. By 2016, the label had released music by 60 living composers worldwide, including 42 world premiere recordings. It was featured in publications such as Time Out New York, Fanfare Magazine, and notable online magazines such as I Care if You Listen, Sequenza 21, and Music and Vision (UK). One of its albums (Breath Beneath by PRISM Quartet) made the "Top 10 CDs of 2010" list by Richard Scheinin of Inside Bay Area, and another (Journey by Cory Barnfield) made the 2011 "Recommended Recordings" list of the Saxophone Journal. Stem is also the founding member of A/Tonal, an ensemble dedicated to the music of living composers and their connections to the past.