Having ploughed through a number of worthy, if slightly dull, business books in my time it was quite refreshing find one that combined business with another one of my favourite subjects, music.
OK, “The Haçienda – How Not To Run A Club” by former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook probably wasn’t intended to be a business book, but as it covers the rise and fall of a business venture, including issues such as personnel, management, marketing, finance and internal controls, it does as good a job as any that I have read recently.
I can hear you all saying now “Oh well, it was a business run by rock stars, no wonder it failed. Obviously no planning or review processes or proper management”. Well, no actually, what the book reveals is that they did have regular management meetings, they did prepare accounts and forecasts, and they did do their best to get the right people.
Indeed Peter Hook comes across as fairly switched on in terms of the shortcomings of the business, perhaps not unreasonably so, given that he, as a member of New Order was unwittingly bankrolling the whole thing. Sadly the same could not be said for some of his fellow directors, including the late and very lamented Tony Wilson, whose entrepreneurial zeal created the iconic Factory Records empire, and it was their shortcomings in cost control and cash flow management, along with some external factors such as drugs and crime, which eventually sunk the club.
Yes it was the fact that I consider Joy Division to be the best group ever to emerge from Manchester (it’s a generational thing – other people will cite The Hollies or 10cc or The Smiths or The Stone Roses or Oasis – no doubt Delphic who have been placed third in the list of the BBC’s Sound Of 2010 artists will be somebody’s choice in the future) that drew me to the book in the first place, but given that the history of the modern music business has many excellent examples of entrepreneurship, it was a valuable business case study in its own right.
Meanwhile Peter Hook is clearly a glutton for punishment – he has just announced that he is opening a new live music venue at the old offices of Factory Records in Manchester. He says it will differ from the Haçienda, and he aims to make money this time. Right. Well good luck with that one then Pete….