YouTube Gems: Richard Branson And The Story Of Virgin Records

YouTube Gems: Richard Branson And The Story Of Virgin Records

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Every now and then I stumble upon a little gem on YouTube but rarely share them. However, this one I just could not resist commenting on because it covers an amazing piece of our cultural history and at the time of writing has only received 5,500 views! Richard Branson’s ‘My Virgin Records Story – The Documentary’ is the tale of Virgin Records, from Mike Oldfield to The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols to Janet Jackson and charts the people and places that made Virgin Records the greatest independent record label in the world. So is this Virgin’s first foray into video content marketing, or just a bunch of old men reminiscing? Let’s take a look:

I’m old enough to be a contemporary of Richard Branson (he’s older than me – just) and I remember the day Virgin Records released Tubular Bells. But this is not only a video full of great nostalgia, its sprinkled with Branson Pocket Wisdom for entrepreneurs. From the early days in a church crypt to getting arrested for tax ‘savings’ it was always a record retailer with unconventional beginnings and a subversive attitude. In many ways it paved the way for an approach to business that would become a role model for many online start ups in recent years. And then there was Mike Oldfield! Branson always says he started a record company just to release ‘Tubular Bells’.

Branson always manages to make many of his critical business decisions seem like accidents – maybe they are and maybe that’s part of his success. So I confess, I was listening in 1973 when John Peel played the entire album on his radio show and Virgin became universally recognised as the leading edge label of the time. But it was not until 1977 that Virgin was able to repeat its success – enter the Sex Pistols and the label continued to go from strength to strength signing music legend after music legend.

‘Creative Disruptors’ became their motto along with ‘Never Mind The Bollocks‘ (You had to be there to appreciate the joke!). In fact the joke was almost on Virgin itself when Branson decided to produce the film of George Orwell’s 1984 and start Virgin Atlantic and nearly bankrupted the company. Branson has never been risk averse and that policy eventually paid off when they signed Paula Abdul and Stevie Windwood – reaching number one in the USA with both artists. The icing on the cake was of course the signing the Stones and Virgin became the world’s leading independent label – only to be sold off to pay for the Virgin Atlantic battle with British Airways.

I admit that as gripping mini-documentary its not going to win a short film festival. There are no ground breaking production gimmicks or filming techniques. Its just their story. Did I learn anything I hadn’t already read somewhere else previously? No! But what I did learn is that on a very small budget, any business that has a story can turn that into a cost effective video that builds the brand, can revive old supporters and inspire new ones.

So why has the video so few views on YouTube? Maybe Virgin have a new territory to break into here or maybe its actually that the story is more about the artists than the brand after all? Such as Emeli Sandé with 10.5 million views for her video:

or Jake Bugg’s ‘Two Fingers’ with 6.7 million views


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