Screw Convention: Diving Headfirst Into the Music Industry

Richard Branson

Lesson time 12:49 min

Richard’s philosophy on life has informed his risk-taking approach at Virgin, starting with his decision to establish a music label, and solidifying its place in the music industry by signing a truly unconventional band—the Sex Pistols.

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Topics include: Richard shares his philosophy on life, and how that informs every decision at Virgin - starting with his unexpected decision to enter the music industry and establish a powerhouse music label that rocketed into stardom with the addition of a truly unconventional band - The Sex Pistols. Learn how to go against convention and enter unfamiliar industries - from taking risks to stand out from the crowd, to finding a better way of doing things.


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Hemingway set a challenge. He said write a short story in six words that has real meaning. I suppose at Virgin, our short story is five words, and that's screw it, let's do it. I think that, you know, screw it, let's do it really sums up my attitude in life. Screw convention, I mean, okay, look, I'm wearing no shoes. I mean, yeah, just screw convention. You know, dress as you feel comfortable. I mean, like, you know, I've got a whole hotel in Chicago where ties that I've cut off people. You know, ties, I mean, how can people wear ties? I mean, they're the most constricting, uncomfortable, unpleasant thing for men to have to wear. Companies have forced people to wear ties. It's an abomination in my opinion. You know, so people should-- if people wanna wear ties, then wear ties. If people wanna not wear ties, let them not wear ties. Let people be themselves and, you know, be individuals. You can't be individuals if you're all sitting around in suits and ties. So throughout all the years, all the Virgin companies, we've tried to do things a bit differently. [MUSIC PLAYING] In business school, you're taught to stick with your onions, you know, stick with what you know. Don't stray from what you know. Just concentrate on that. From a very early age, I decided I didn't just like onions. I liked carrots and I like peas and I like brussel sprouts. And so, you know, I'd have a record company. Whilst running student magazine, a lot of people came to us wanting music. So we decided to set up a little mail order company selling records. One day when we're trying to think of a name for a music company, and, you know, one of the girls said, well, we're all virgins and giggled. And you're a virgin at business. Why don't you call it Virgin? And so we decided that we'd call our little mail order company Virgin Records. And we started selling music by via mail order. We then set about looking for musicians. I remember a friend of mine played me a tape by an artist called Mike Oldfield. He hadn't got a name for it then, but it became known as "Tubular Bells" and just loving the tape and then talking to Mike. And I went to seven record companies, and I loved it. None of them would put this music out. He was only 15. I was 17 or 18. I mean, I was quite young at the time. And so I said something like screw it, let's do it. Let's start a record company. Because if nobody else would put this music out-- and so I remember borrowing a recording contract from the head of Island Records and an artist called Sandy Denny. We crossed out the word Sandy Denny, and we wrote Mike Oldfield. And we had our first artist. And then we had to learn about, you know, distribution and marketing and a whole massive range of things very quickly. And I was so passionate about this album that I would bring John Peel, who was the famed-- the most famous DJ to my houseboat and I'd play him the whole album and o...

About the Instructor

Sometimes, making it big is all about following the fun. Ask Richard Branson. The founder of the Virgin Group built a business empire by solving the problems that fascinated him, disrupting every industry he touched, and pursuing dreams that seemed impossible. The adventure took him from humble beginnings to the stars. Learn how you, too, can find ideas so good they’re scary, lean into your fear, and achieve liftoff.

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Richard Branson

Entrepreneur Richard Branson teaches you how to turn your wildest dreams into successful businesses—and have fun doing it.

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