From Ruben Kincaid in the iconic 70's television show The Partridge Family to Mr White (played by Tom Hanks) in the movie "That Thing You Do" the band manager is often portrayed in popular culture as a calm, cool and collected businessman who is savvy and can handle every situation. In real life this is not always the case (see Lou Pearlman who managed the BackStreet Boys and N'Sync or Billy Joel's manager) and some unscrupulous managers have often ended up stealing from their clients. Regardless, the realities of the music business are harsh and unforgiving and without a trustworthy and experienced hand to help guide them, many worthy musical acts have floundered, failed and disappeared.
Such a steady hand was available to Midlands-based 2-Tone bands in 1978-79 in the guise of John Mostyn, a Birmingham-based music booking agent and promoter. Mostyn helped to light the spark that set off the 2-Tone explosion through a meeting with Jerry Dammers of The Specials. Dammers had approached Mostyn for help with selling the first pressing of 1,000 copies of "Gangsters". Mostyn did Dammers one better by booking The Specials and The Selecter on their first national tour of the UK which resulted in Chrysalis Records picking up the 2-Tone label for distribution. In November 1979, the 2-Tone Tour featuring The Specials, Madness - the first 2-Tone signing - and The Selecter kicked off. All three appeared on Top Of The Pops on the same night during that tour and all three had records in the Top 30. 2-Tone became a household name overnight. In many ways, Mostyn was the final piece in the puzzle that set 2-Tone on its course. Based on his connection with Dammers, Mostyn was approached by The Beat to help manage them and guide them toward signing a contract with Arista Records and the release of their first single "Tears Of A Clown" which also shot up the charts. He stayed on as their manager in offices in the Handsworth section of Birmingham through the release of their second LP "Whappen".
How important was Mostyn to the success of The Beat? Ranking Roger recently took part in a speakers series in Birmingham for people interested in the creative arts and related the importance of having Mostyn as a manager to their success. In the beginning, The Beat were attracting a lot of attention from the big record labels who saw the band’s innovative sound as having great potential for commercial success. It was around this time that the band met Mostyn, a person who Roger cited as being one of the most honest people that he has ever encountered. Roger related that Mostyn ardently looked out for the interests of The Beat ensuring that they didn’t get ripped off by the industry’s big boys. This is something for which Roger says he will always be grateful. He believes that The Beat were blessed with the protection and experience that Mostyn had to offer, and firmly believes that The Beat would not have achieved worldwide success without appropriate advice and representation from the outset.
Mostyn's career with The Beat was just the beginning. He was approached by Andy Cox and David Steele of The Beat in 1985 to help manage their new band Fine Young Cannibals who at that time had been turned down by every record label. Via a strategy of a few carefully selected shows and a TV appearance on "The Tube", the band was inundated with offers and signed to London Records. Their first album released in 1985 sold one million copies and their second, released in 1989 sold more copies than any other recording artist in the world that year. Mostyn has also managed The Chameleons, Inner City, The Wonderstuff, Ocean Colour Scene and Alison Moyet.
Mostyn remains a force within the Birmingham arts and music community. In the early nineties Mostyn heard of the proposed demolition of Digbeth Civic Hall and raised the funds from Richard Branson’s private company ‘Voyager’ to turn it into the venue/night club that it is today. When Nelson Mandela visited Birmingham and the City Council needed someone to organise a welcoming concert for him in Symphony Hall at 14 days notice it was John and his team that came to the rescue when other major promoters had said that it couldn’t be done. Mostyn now works with Three Ones Music Ltd which is setting up a new record label and ‘Music of Distinction’ the first contemporary live music agency to operate in the city for decades.
For more information on Mostyn, you can visit his blog.