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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 August 2007, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
How Tony Wilson changed music
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Tony Wilson, the music mogul who has died at 57, leaves behind an enormous musical legacy. Here are five ways that Wilson changed the music industry.


Wilson, who was working as a reporter at Granada TV, gave the Sex Pistols their television debut in 1976.

The Sex Pistols outside Buckingham Palace in 1977
Wilson booked The Sex Pistols for his music programme So It Goes
He had seen the punk pioneers' legendary gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall that June.

Only about 40 people were in the crowd, according to author David Nolan, who wrote a book hailing the concert as The Gig that Changed the World.

But they included future stars such as Morrissey, Mark E Smith and Mick Hucknall, who were inspired by the event to form their own bands.

And Wilson was inspired to book them for the second series of his regional music programme So It Goes. The Jam and Elvis Costello also got their TV debuts on the show.

In the late 1980s, Wilson also presented a Friday night arts show, The Other Side of Midnight, which gave The Stone Roses, 808 State and The Happy Mondays their first appearances on TV.


Joy Division, who went on to become New Order, and The Happy Mondays were among the acts on the roster at Manchester's Factory Records.

New Order in 1989
New Order's hits included True Faith, World in Motion and Blue Monday
It has often been said that Wilson wrote contracts in his own blood, saying the artists owned everything and the label owned nothing.

Whether this story was true or not, the principle was. It was a powerful and revolutionary statement of creative freedom - but it was also financial suicide.

Wilson once said it "resulted in my entire catalogue being owned by somebody else". But he added: "I can't regret it, because the idea was not to own the past but to present the future."

New Order's Blue Monday became the biggest-selling 12-inch single in UK history - but Factory lost money on every copy because of the intricate sleeve design.

Other local heroes such as The Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio and James were also on the label - as well as a host of others who never quite lived up to their billing (like The Wendys and Northside).

Wilson claimed Factory was on the verge of signing Oasis and Pulp before it went bankrupt in 1992.


Joy Division and New Order manager Rob Gretton decided there should be a venue that played the kind of music he liked.

A scene from 2002 film 24-Hour Party People
The Hacienda was an integral part of 2002 film 24-Hour Party People
The club, which opened in 1982, was one of the first to play house music in the UK and went on to become the spiritual home of the "Madchester" scene in the late-80s, with acid house and ecstasy at its heart.

The Hacienda was funded by New Order and Factory Records, and as well as being a magnet for clubbers, it also hosted gigs.

Along with the Factory bands, the performers included The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis and Madonna in her first UK appearance.

"The Hacienda changed Manchester forever," said Vaughan Allen, chief executive of the city's Urbis centre, which is currently hosting an exhibition about the club.

"It did 25 years ago what MySpace does today, bringing together creative people to create something new," he told the BBC last month.

But like Factory Records, the Hacienda lost money, and the heavy drug use meant gangs and dealers moved in, leading to regular violence. The club closed in 1997.


Set up in 1992, In the City is the UK's largest and most influential forum for finding new talent and discussing the future of the industry.

Liam and Noel Gallagher in 1996
Oasis played at In the City in 1992, two years before their first single
It allows the music industry to run the rule over the cream of the UK's new and unsigned bands.

And it has helped launch almost every major British act of the last 15 years.

Oasis, Radiohead and Suede played at the first In the City. Muse and Coldplay appeared in 1998, Snow Patrol performed in 2000 and The Arctic Monkeys put in an appearance two years ago.

Wilson was renowned as "one of the great spotters of music talent", according to Alan McGee, who founded Creation - the home of Oasis and Primal Scream.

"He was a complete inspiration," McGee told the NME website following Wilson's death.


Wilson was one of the first people to realise the full implications of the illegal downloading revolution that Napster ushered in at the turn of the millennium, and to turn it into an opportunity.

Napster's logo
Napster let fans download songs without paying royalties
Back in 1999 - four years before iTunes was launched - Wilson was preparing a site called Music33, which sold tracks from local labels for 33p each.

He said the 33p price-tag was based on an honest assessment of the costs of digital delivery.

However, the site failed to take off and the cost of digital music was set much higher by the major players in the coming years.

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