Richard Branson’s engagement with music

Did you know that Richard Branson made his first million from the music industry?

As with Clive Calder, there is a strong South African connection here. First, it must be said that Richard Branson absolutely loved Nelson Mandela, and had huge respect for him. It was Nelson Mandela who asked Branson to help out an ailing gym company called Health & Racquet, which is why it eventually became Virgin Active.

But more than that, Branson’s cousin, Simon Draper, is South African, and was knowledgeable about the music industry. They turned a farm house in the British countryside into a studio called The Manor, and recorded acts there, offering accommodation and an escape from London as the main attraction, so that artists could find their inner muse – in relative peace.

One of the first acts they worked with was a man called Mike Oldfield. He had what was considered to be a weird sound, and made use of tubular bells in his music (his sister Sally Oldfield’s only hit, Mirrors, makes significant use of bells in the song). Although the music was probably considered a little left of centre, Richard Branson boarded a plane (Virgin Atlantic wasn’t around yet) and went to see Ahmet Ertegun, a music big cheese in New York. Branson managed to get Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album signed as the soundtrack for the movie The Exorcist, which was a runaway cult success, and Mike Oldfield’s album sales shot through the roof.

Sir Richard Branson made his first million, and never looked back. In the mid-80s he sold the label to EMI to finance his airline, but the man who refuses to grow up or grow old owes his fine start and his good fortune in life to music – and LOTS of hard work!

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Blogger Rob Rodell is a singer-songwriter, performing music artist, music business lecturer and singing teacher. Rodell was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) for his album A Cappella Christmas. Between 2009 and 2011 he was the head of music business education at the Soul Candi Institute of Music, which is linked to the Soul Candi record label. His hit House track Could This Be Love done in conjunction with DJ Shimza and Cuebur, received extensive airplay on both YFM and Metro FM, and was released through Soul Candi on various compilation albums, selling in excess of 10,000 copies and giving it ‘gold’ status as a single. Rodell completed his licentiate in singing through Rockschool and passed it with distinction, becoming the first person in the world to do the qualification. He is currently busy with his Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree.

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