I never met him, but living near to Manchester I felt the effects of his creative energy! He typified the saying once quoted to me: "You can change the world if you don't want paying for it!"
The BBC wrote in How Tony Wilson changed Music:
Here are five ways that Wilson changed the music industry.
BRINGING PUNK TO THE MAINSTREAM
SETTING UP FACTORY RECORDS
ESTABLISHING THE HACIENDA NIGHTCLUB
RUNNING THE "IN THE CITY" CONFERENCE
PIONEERING LEGAL MUSIC DOWNLOADS
Wilson was one of the first people to realise the full implications of the illegal downloading revolution that Napster ushered in at the turn of the millennium, and to turn it into an opportunity.
Back in 1999 - four years before iTunes was launched - Wilson was preparing a site called Music33, which sold tracks from local labels for 33p each.
He said the 33p price-tag was based on an honest assessment of the costs of digital delivery.
However, the site failed to take off and the cost of digital music was set much higher by the major players in the coming years.
What he did do is alert people to the possibility that Manchester could regenerate itself after the bruising experience of the end of "King Cotton". Like many core businesses the industry had many complementors to actually create the total experience that music lovers want.
The NME's Dan Martin writes how Wilson influenced his career here, A few relevant extracts are:
"I'm not going to pretend I knew Tony Wilson closely, but having the unpleasant honour of writing an obituary for him over the weekend, it struck me that he had been a presence – and an inspiration – for most of my life.....
A few years later I found myself (again, as most of us did) under his and Yvette’s employment, as Panel Co-ordinator at In The City.....
I was terrible at the job, but I got to work in offices still known as Factory Records. I remember vividly how Tony would flounce into the office, a few times a week. He would tell an enigmatic story about Shaun Ryder,
or prophesise the digital future of music with his new music33 download service (it foundered because, yup, the music industry weren’t having any of it, and they let Apple runaway with the market shortly afterwards).
Or he’d wonder aloud whether he’d offended John Lydon somehow, our keynote speaker that year, because he hadn’t heard from him in a few days. Or he’d use a word he knew none of us would have heard and tell us to look it up (we did – I got ‘Diaspora’ that way). Mainly he would rave on about music. I vividly remember him coming back from New York one day, mad with excitement about a new track he’d found that was going to take the world. Sure, we had to stifle our sniggers when he played ‘Because I Got High’ by Afroman, but for sure – it was number one four months later (though no, not through Factory)."
So here was a man who networked through the industry's movers and shakers, had a go at creating businesses which he thought important, spotted trends and turned them into opportunity and had fun.
It is interesting to contrast him with another, Sir Henry Royce who co-founded Rolls-Royce. in Cooke Street, Manchester. Rolls acted as the salesman with connections to the aristocracy who were the early adopters with the money to buy the car and pay for a mechanic! Royce was the design and engineering brain and the hyphen(-) in Rolls Royce was the little known Mr Claude Johnson who was the commercial brain! Which is a bit like start-ups.. there is always a hidden team member figuring out how to herd the cats!
Fast forward to Lord Bilimoria of Cobra Beer. He founded new beer brands to complement Indian Food and again used trend spotting, networking, financial innovation, product and process innovation to make a dent in the traditional brewing industry. He relied on a team of astute people to help him grow Cobra Beers.
So the ingredients for changing the world ( or a part of it) seem to be Trend-spotting, Insight, Networking, Team leading, Expertise and knowledge across more than the industry your in. Sound a bit like attempting to "make a dent in the universe"!