Collins was born in Northampton and grew up in Northamptonshire, going to Weston Favell School. After studying graphic design at Chelsea School of Art, Collins started work at New Musical Express in 1989, subsequently becoming editor of Q in 1995, having worked on Select and Empire (where he was briefly editor for three issues in 1995, before moving over to Q). He also formed a double-act with fellow music journalist Stuart Maconie, presenting the Sony Award-winning BBC Radio 1 show Collins and Maconie's Hit Parade, after forging their style on a daily comedy strand on Mark Goodier's BBC Radio 1 drivetime show, and Collins & Maconie's Movie Club on ITV.
Collins is on many list shows that are shown on BBC/ITV/Channel 4 (e.g. I Love The 1980s). He stated on BBC Three's The Most Annoying TV Programmes We Love To Hate that he had appeared on 37 such list shows, and that this, the 37th, was going to be his last one. He subsequently appeared on Heroes Unmasked on BBC Three. He devoted a full chapter to the experience of appearing as a talking head on list/nostalgia shows in his book That's Me in the Corner.
Politically, Collins was briefly a Labour Party member between the late 1980s and early 1990s, leaving after Labour's defeat in the 1992 General Election.
In 1998, he published his first book, Still Suitable for Miners, an authorised biography of the singer/songwriter Billy Bragg, updated in 2002 and 2007.
In 2001, Collins appeared, with Maconie and fellow New Musical Express journalist David Quantick, as a writer and performer in the BBC Radio 2 comedy show Lloyd Cole Knew My Father, based on their Edinburgh Festival show, in which they regaled their audience with anecdotes from their careers in music journalism. In 2004 he began presenting another Radio 2 programme, The Day the Music Died, a topical comedy show about current events in the record industry, which ran to six series, and was team captain on both series of the BBC Radio 4 pop quiz All the Way from Memphis. He also presented Banter on BBC Radio 4, whose third series aired in April 2008.
He became a presenter on BBC 6 Music in 2002, fronting the weekday Teatime slot from 4-7pm until April 2005, when he took over the 6 Music Chart (4-6pm on Saturdays) and a Sunday afternoon show (2-5pm), with a mix of music and guests, notably the comedian Richard Herring. In January 2007, the Chart was moved to Sundays (at 2pm) and reduced to an hour, while his Sunday show went to Saturdays (4-6pm). This arrangement lasted until the end of March 2007, when Collins stopped doing these two regular shows. He currently co-presents a Saturday show from 10am until 1pm with Richard Herring, while also deputising for other presenters on the network, notably Nemone and Steve Lamacq.
Collins is also film editor for the Radio Times , and a contributing editor to The Radio Times Guide To Films. He writes a monthly column called Whatever for The Word magazine. He cut his scriptwriting teeth on the soap operas EastEnders and Family Affairs. He was co-writer with Simon Day of the sitcom Grass, which debuted on BBC Three in Autumn 2003 and on BBC Two in January 2004. He co-writes the sitcom Not Going Out for BBC One with Lee Mack, which won the Breakthrough Award at the Royal Television Society Awards in March 2007. The programme also won the Rose D'Or for Best Sitcom at the 2007 Rose D'Or TV Awards in Lucerne and was nominated for two British Comedy Awards in November 2007. Not Going Out was cancelled by BBC1 after the third series in 2009. Collins contributed to BBC Three's Doctor Who Confidential and appeared in the Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio drama LIVE 34, playing a radio newscaster.
He is perhaps best known for his three volumes of autobiography , humorous accounts of "growing up normal" in 1970s Northampton, struggling with art school in London in the 1980s, and forging a media career in the 1980s and 1990s: Where Did It All Go Right? (2003) (a Sunday Times and WHSmith bestseller), Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (2004), and That's Me in the Corner, which draws its title from a line from the R.E.M. song "Losing My Religion", published in May 2007.
Collins and his family appeared as contestants on the quiz show Telly Addicts in 1990. They reached the semi-finals.
A keen web user, he contributes under his own name to assorted forums and message boards. He writes a Wordpress blog called Never Knowingly Underwhelmed.
In August 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Northampton (which he attended when it was still called Nene College in 1983-84). In 2007, he was made patron of Thomas's Fund , a Northampton-based music therapy charity for children with life-limiting illnesses.
In February 2008, with Richard Herring he started to produce a podcast as Collings and Herrin. These names originated from the fact that Andrew Collins' mobile phone caller display only allowed enough characters to show 'Richard Herrin' on the screen when Richard called him. It was therefore decided that Andrew Collins should inherit the 'g'. Initially fortnightly, the podcast went weekly in March 2008. In April 2009, it reached number six in the iTunes comedy podcast charts. He and Herring recorded live podcasts at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008, 2009 (a run of five which sold out) and 2010; for anti-sweatshop campaigners No Sweat in London; and at various cities including, Cardiff, Lincoln and Brighton to packed audiences. The Guardian described the podcast as having "the spirit of Derek and Clive." The podcast led to being temporarily offered the Adam & Joe slot on Saturday morning on 6 Music in January 2010.
In tandem with his work with Richard Herring, Andrew has been developing his own stand-up act, initially under the aegis of Robin Ince, trying material out at Ince's inclusive Book Club, School For Gifted Children and Godless nights. In 2010, Andrew began developing a solo show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival based around Secret Dancing, a technique he debuted at Collings & Herrin gigs.