Power Tucks His Shirt In

Maybe Irish promoter Vince Power doesn’t get dressed up for most occasions, but one doesn’t just sloppily stroll into Buckingham Palace to be honored by the Queen.

“I’ll have to tuck my shirt in for the first time in my life,” Power said of his upcoming royal visit, where The Queen will make him an honorary Commander Of The British Empire (CBE) for his services to the music industry.

He laughed off suggestions that the award might also be for smoothing the relationship between the live music business and the London Stock Exchange.

Before the Mean Fiddler Music Group chief made about £13 million selling his stake to Hamsard – a company set up by Live Nation chief Michael Rapino and Denis Desmond of Ireland’s MCD – his last year as company chairman was notable for the uneasy and sometimes humorous relationship he had with the city.

He was on the brink of selling out in October 2004 when his shareholding was placed with city investors, but he was back before the deal went through.

Within a couple of days of solicitor and former management consultant Dean James coming in as his replacement, MFMG managing director Melvin Benn’s resignation sparked such a furor that Power returned, James was ousted and Evolution Securities Ltd. – the city broker that engineered the deal – was unceremoniously dumped.

The U.K. papers’ business analysts were flummoxed, describing these shenanigans as “bizarre” and “chaotic” while the company share price fell about 20 percent to 42.5 pence. The live music industry was less perplexed, aware that the only predictable thing about Power is his total unpredictability.

The upshot was that, while he held the reins, the relationship between Mean Fiddler and the stock exchange would never be more than a smoking ruin.

“Life is back to normal at Mean Fiddler with Power in the driving seat,” a company spokesman told BBC News Online, seemingly without a touch of irony.

The city clearly couldn’t grasp Mean Fiddler’s take on normality. It certainly couldn’t cope with a character like Power. For his part, the corporate suits – no doubt with their shirts tucked in – may just as well have come from another world.

A year after selling to Hamsard, Power is building another empire under the banner of Vince Power Music Group (VPMG), spending some of the £13 million he got from Rapino and Desmond to open a couple of London clubs and invest in a chunk of Spain’s Benicassim Festival.

Desmond is also his partner in the Benicassim deal. Both acknowledged that they’re unlikely bedfellows, given their history of a fierce and at times bitter rivalry.

In the past, Desmond has suspected Power of trying to scupper some of his Irish festivals by funding people to object to the licenses.

Asked why he didn’t try to increase his own Mean Fiddler shareholding – he bought 10 million for £4.6 million – during that original abortive city takeover, Desmond told Pollstar, “I knew fuck all about it until the day it was announced.”

At the time, some media reports, including one in The Guardian, suggested Desmond had somehow “put a spoke in Power’s wheel.” Desmond dismissed the stories as “bullshit.”

“We haven’t always been the best of partners,” Power admitted with a touch of understatement.

“We’re both fiercely competitive and stubborn to the point that we’d cut off our noses to spite our faces. But we’re also the sort of people who can have a blazing row with each other and then sit down and have a beer together. We don’t let things drag on.”

Proof that they’ve buried the hatchet, and not in each other’s heads, came with the news that they’re looking for a second Spanish festival to twin with Benicassim.

Power said being “family” men means they both have a mellower side. He has eight children, three from his marriage (he was divorced at 29), three from one relationship and two more from another. Desmond and his wife have two boys and a girl.

One of the conditions of the Mean Fiddler sale was a three-year, non-compete clause preventing Power from setting up a festival in the U.K.

It still has a couple of years to run, but he has no interest in re-entering the British outdoor market. He said another major festival could be one too many.

“If I came up with an idea and a site, I suppose I could go to Denis and Live Nation with a proposition, but I don’t see that happening,” Power said. “I think the market has enough, unless global warming stretches the season through to October.”

He’s still looking at other European sites and, as if to reinforce his own unpredictability, has his eyes on Tirana, the capital of Albania.

“I go over there because I’m involved with Cradle, a children’s charity. My festivals collected money for it for years and, while talking to the local mayor and various dignitaries, I’ve realized that there’s a massive demand for one.

“They see bands on their equivalent of MTV and hear them on the radio, but there’s no opportunity for the kids to go to see them playing live.”

With an average wage of little more than euro 100 per month, the event would need the backing of a major sponsor. According to The Independent, Power is already “in negotiations” with the region’s mobile phone companies.

He said he’s looking forward to receiving his CBE at next month’s presentation ceremony, although he admitted being surprised when he was first notified of the award.

“It caused a reaction back in Ireland, and on radio phone-ins they were saying the country ought to have some sort of award system that recognizes its own people.

“I’m very proud to be Irish and I’m also proud to live in Kilburn and to have worked here for over 40 years.”

VPMG is a long way short of being the size of Mean Fiddler, although there’s already a dozen staff at the Greek St. offices and another 100 spread across the bars. But Power emphasised that he’s determined to see it build beyond that.

“I couldn’t sit on a beach and do nothing. There are things that I’ve always wanted to do, such as management and a record label, but I’ve either never had the time or the right people around me.”

– John Gammon