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Tony Wilson: the rock 'n' roll entrepreneur

Scant business acumen but abundant rock and roll spirit: the late Tony Wilson.

Tony Wilson is an unlikely business legend because he never actually made very much money.

His record label was ultimately a failure if you judge things purely on the bottom line. Despite the fact that Factory Records had in its stable some of the biggest selling artists of their time, it eventually went bankrupt due to a failure to control costs - and some of its most wayward artists.

The Hacienda nightclub also went under despite the fact that it went down in clubbing folklore. Immensely popular, it nevertheless struggled to make a profit because the clientele preferred buying ecstasy than beer, and later on because of gang infiltration. But it remains an inspiration to many users searching for nightclubs and bars for sale.

Yet Wilson still makes it into the pantheon of BusinessWings business heroes because of his lasting impact on the cultural landscape of Manchester, his pivotal role in making it a counterpoint to the all-powerful southern capital, so we have no qualms about including him.

Record label owners can often be seen as villains of the music industry: stifling innovation, rewarding banality and choosing good looks over talent.

Impresario Tony Wilson - a Rock n' Roll executive - was different.

Wilson was a major protagonist in the 'Madchester' scene of the late 1980s/early 1990s, often to the detriment of his personal wealth and reputation.

I used to say some people make money and some make history - which is very funny until you find you can't afford to keep yourself alive

Wilson on being unable to afford a life-saving operation

Adam Bannister

About the author

Adam Bannister writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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