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29 May 2014

Need some inspiration?

Richard Branson started his record business from the crypt of a church where he ran The Student magazine. Branson advertised popular records in The Student and it was an overnight success. Trading under the name "Virgin", he sold records for considerably less than the "High Street" outlets, especially the chain, W. H. Smith. Branson once said, "There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration." The name "Virgin" was suggested by one of Branson's early employees because they were all new at business. At the time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit so-called resale price maintenance. In effect, Branson began the series of changes that led to large-scale discounting of recorded music.

Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London. In 1971, Branson was questioned in connection with the selling of records in Virgin stores that had been declared export stock. The matter was never brought before a court and Branson agreed to repay any unpaid tax and a fine. Branson's mother, Eve, re-mortgaged the family home to help pay the settlement.

Earning enough money from his record store, Branson in 1972 launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell and bought a country estate, in which he installed a recording studio. He leased out studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, whose debut album Tubular Bells (1973) was the first release for Virgin Records and it became a chart-topping best-seller.

Virgin signed such controversial bands as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign. It also won praise for exposing the public to such obscure avant-garde music as Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the music world. In the early 1980s, Virgin purchased the gay nightclub, Heaven. In 1991, in a consortium with David Frost, Richard Branson has made the unsuccessful bid for three ITV franchisees under the CPV-TV name. The early 1980s also saw his only attempt as a producer—on the novelty record, "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", by Singing Sheep in association with Doug McLean and Grace McDonald. The recording was a series of sheep baa-ing along to a drum-machine-produced track and reached number 42 in the UK charts in 1982.

In 1992, to keep his airline company afloat, Branson sold the Virgin label to EMI for £500 million. Branson said that he wept when the sale was completed because the record business had been the very start of the Virgin empire. He later created V2 Records to re-enter the music business.