Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Making a profit

I ended up watching a documentary on BBC Four last night about Factory Records, the epoch defining Manchester record label that brought the world Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays.

It was headed up by Tony Wilson, local TV presenter and champion of the local music scene. He was notorious for grand gestures, not pulling any punches and just making stuff happened irrespective of the consequences.

Factory was never a big commercial success, lurching from one financial crisis to another. Profit was sacrificed at the alter of style. For example New Order released the biggest selling EP of all time, Blue Monday, unfortunately they lost money on every sale because the packaging was so expensive to produce.

At one point in the program he was asked if he ever did anything in order to make a profit. He bombastically replied that of course they hadn't it was all about the vision.

From a commercial point of view this sounds ludicrous and the Blue Monday production was commercial suicide. However this struck me as one end of an entreprenurial spectrum rather than sheer stupidity.

Any entrepeneurial adventure starts with a vision. Some will immediately analyse the commercial opportunity, assess the market, predict sales and production costs and kill or feed the project at that point. Others will carry on regardless confident in the vision and will beg and borrow to keep the dream alive.

It's the latter kind of visions that change our world, from hydro-cyclone vacuum cleaners to clockwork radios to the Internet to the regeneration of a city.

Without a bit of blind faith the world would be very boring.

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