Martin Mills

Founder, Beggars Group

Martin Mills (credit: Tim Soter)

Martin Mills is the founder and Chairman of London and New York, NY-headquartered Beggars Group.

Beggars Group began life in the 1970s as a group of record shops called Beggars Banquet.

Martin Mills: Career history

Martin Mills got his start in the music industry when he began opening Beggars Banquet record shops with his business partner, Nick Austin, in London in 1973.

The pair expanded their business into a music label called Beggars Banquet Records, focusing primarily on British punk rock. The first record the label released was “Shadow”/”Love Story” by The Lurkers, a single now considered to be a punk rock classic. The label’s success would continue with releases from artists such as Gary Numan, Buffalo Tom, and The Cult.

Before expanding their record shop business into a label, Mills and Austin simultaneously worked as concert promoters.

As Mills once stated: “We knew someone who worked at a booking agency and this idea came about because we believed we could see a market that was being ignored by the mainstream music business.”

They successfully promoted acts including The Crusaders and Dory Previn. Soon thereafter, however, punk music exploded and the entire record shop business changed.

Under Mill’s ownership for over forty years, Beggars Group has always been focused on alternative music. It consists of XL Recordings, Matador Records, 4AD, Young, Rough Trade Records, and Beggars Arkive. It labels’ output is distributed by [PIAS], Redeye, Hostess, and Select.

Beggars’ catalog includes recordings from Adele, Alabama Shakes, Bon Iver, and Sampha, among many others.

Martin Mills: Professional philosophy

Speaking in an address to the music industry in 2016, Martin Mills said: “The new world order [of the music business] sees artists and independents, through their collective organisations including A2IM in the USA, Merlin, Impala and Win, taking their place at the top table.

“Historically the 10 or 12 large labels led us all for the benefit of the industry, and the component parts of the industry sheltered under their umbrella.

“Now they are three consolidated super-powers, under more acute financial pressure than we can even imagine, in a market that has shrunk by 50%, and thus now tend to make choices that are only in their own short term financial interests.”

“The component parts of this industry are badly in need of rapprochement. We have never been as divided as we are now.”

Martin Mills, speaking in 2016

He added: “Artists and owner-run independents, though, have a much longer term interest in the health of the food chain.

“The component parts of this industry are badly in need of rapprochement. We have never been as divided as we are now.”

Speaking in 2015, Mills commented: “I have no objection to including streams in the chart, as long as – and it’s a big but – fans that are streaming albums as a whole are separately identified. So the albums chart should include album streams, and the singles chart should include track streams.

“But including tracks with albums mixes apples with pears, and fails to chart anything meaningful other than sheer brute size.

“It may well be in the interests of the small number of super-consolidated major labels to make the big become bigger, and appear to be even bigger; but I believe it’s fundamentally against the interests of the rest of us, since it will reduce the oxygen available for exposure for artists whose natural format is the album.

“That reduction in exposure will, I believe, lead inevitably to the decline of the album, and a curtailing of the ability of the non-pop-single artist to make a living from their art.

“That will hurt all labels and artists long term, I believe, as lack of diversity will strangle innovation and music will become moribund and uninteresting, and consumer interest will erode. It will also disempower the artist since the major labels will regain total control of access to market.

“It will create short-termism, and damage career longevity. After all that has been achieved in the last few decades in terms of artists’ control over their careers, it would be tragic if that were to be reversed by this tide.”Music Business Worldwide

Martin Mills In The News

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