Vince Power: How I made £38m from music festivals

Vince Power, founder of the music festival organiser, Mean Fiddler, explains how he went from flogging furniture to partnering Britain's most famous music festival.

When he came to London from rural Ireland, aged 16, in the 1960s, Vince Power tried his hand "at a bit of everything". But it was only when he tried demolition that he "finally found something worth settling on". The rash of new high-rise housing being built across London meant that older buildings had to be demolished. So "lots of decent old furniture was being left behind". Power bought a van and began selling it to dealers across London. "I was getting it for free so I was making good profits." Business boomed and Power set up a chain of shops with his brother.

However, he didn't want to be selling furniture for ever. Much more interested in music, Power opened a club in London's Harlesden in 1982. "The council was sceptical so the only way I could get a licence was by buying a venue." The club, renamed The Mean Fiddler, cost £100,000. Power raised a chunk of the money by striking advance deals with a brewery "a better option than going to the banks".

As it was in the heart of London's Irish community, Power's plan was for an alternative country and western club. It took a while to "get the formula right" the club lost money in its first few years. But with time Power "learned more about the live music business" and built up a network of promoters. He was also helped by up-and-coming Irish acts such as The Pogues. By 1986 he was ready to buy another club in Islington. Four years later, sales hit £6m and over the next decade he bought a number of high-profile venues including the Jazz Caf and the Astoria. "Each venue had its own identity and we started to play different music and bring in a wide range of punters."

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In 1988 Power was asked to work with Reading Festival. "They wanted to shake things up and bring in some new blood." He bought a 10% stake in the festival and began using his industry contacts to revamp the line-up. As Reading's profits began to improve, Power increased his stake. By 1992 he owned the festival outright. He then twinned it with a festival he controlled in Leeds. That way he could tap two markets while negotiating lower fees with artists.

Eager to gain more exposure to the sector, Power organised a London-based Irish music festival, the Fleadh, in Finsbury Park. "Festivals were good business and I could see that they were starting to take off with young people in a big way." It was a pattern that Power, now 64, followed throughout his music industry career. When the Thatcher government cracked down on illegal dance-music raves, Power profited by offering more sanitised legal versions. By 2000 he was invited to partner Britain's most famous festival, Glastonbury, and succeeded in boosting the event's profits. The next year Mean Fiddler listed on Aim. When it was later sold to a US entertainment group in 2005, Power pocketed £38m.

Retirement is till some way off, though. He plans to return to Aim this year with his new venture Music Festivals Group. It organises the popular Benicassim festival in Spain and the Hop Farm festival in Kent. Power is convinced it will be another success. "Festivals have become an important part of young people's lives and are only going to get bigger."

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.