I work in the Music Industry based in Birmingham.
“From evidence that can be found John is still the most successful artist manager ever to have operated outside London in terms of successful artists worked with. Particularly known for his work with The Beat and Fine Young Cannibals but there are many others who have benefited from his sage advice and guidance. Committed to making the Music Scene in Birmingham better in any way possible he has championed the City’s artists and venues for 40 years.”
Biography for Birmingham based readers and others who really want to know.
“John Mostyn’s involvement with the music industry began in Birmingham in 1972 when he started promoting evenings for acoustic songwriters upstairs at the then Fighting Cocks in Moseley. The evenings went under the name Big Ears and ran weekly for around two years giving lots of local writers their first public performance experience, as, at the time there were only folk or rock venues and nothing in between. David Carroll a regular performer and helper and now a musician with the Royal Shakespeare Company still has the massive hand printing press that was used to print the flyers often leaving David and John covered in thick black ink on a Friday evening.
1974 saw John unexpectedly being invited to work with Rob Cowlyn who ran a P.A. hire company based in Birmingham. The work involved taking care of all on the road aspects of tours by artists such as ‘Bill Haley and the Comets’ and ‘The Drifters’. This period saw John visit hundreds of venues around the country learning a massive amount along the way about all aspects of live performance from equipment details to crowd safety and many other issues.
In 1975 John worked as a sales rep for Transatlantic Records, a company specializing in Folk, Blues and Jazz. The job saw John traveling the whole of the Midlands calling on record outlets on a monthly cycle, which gave him an insight into distribution and retailing aspects of the music industry.
In 1976 John was invited to be the administrator of a musical theatre group known as ‘Mr John Dowie and The Big Girls Blouse’. Despite the name the group were awarded a grant by West Midlands Arts and spent a year simultaneously delighting and horrifying theatre and university audiences around the UK. John, single handedly, looked after accounts, booked the performances, drove the van and operated the sound and lights. John Dowie has gone on to acclaim as a columnist and writer for theatre, his most recent work ‘Jesus My Boy’ ran in the West End in 98 starring Tom Conti.
Due to the challenging nature of John Dowie’s work the group could not move forward into television etc. at the time so John Dowie went his own way and for a couple of years The ‘Big Girls Blouse’ became ‘The Nylons’ and John Mostyn became ‘Brent Ford’ leading to the cheekily named ‘Brent Ford and The Nylons’. The group became favourites on the Birmingham pub and club scene, their greatest moment being appearing on the locally produced national TV show Revolver, where Micky Most described them as “weird but good”.
Their last ever show in 77 at the then Barrel Organ in Digbeth, now The Dubliner, saw the police called to control the sizeable crowd unable to access the sold out venue.
Whilst being ‘Brent Ford’ John used his experience of venues around the country to set up, with accountant John Seeley, Oak Agency. Oak was set up primarily to represent and obtain live work for the wide variety of unrepresented artists from the Midlands and quickly developed good working relationships with all Midlands venues from colleges and universities to pubs and hotels, USAF bases and anywhere where live music was required.
Gerry Dammers of the then unheard of ‘Specials’ bought a copy of their first single to John and announced that he was concerned that they would be able to sell their first pressing of a thousand. John immediately booked the band on a national tour and Chrysalis records picked up the band and the ‘Two Tone’ labe.l The Two Tone explosion was under way.
‘The Selecter’ followed and then ‘The Beat’ and John was delighted to be asked by The Beat’s then management team to join them in managing the band who had just completed their third gig.
John used all his experience to quickly move ‘The Beat’ toward a fine recording contract with Arista Records and their first single ‘Tears Of A Clown’ gave John his first taste of managing a top ten artist. With one of the original managers resigning John led the management team from offices in Handsworth to help the band achieve success in most world markets until his resignation from the management role three years later.
‘The Chameleons’ from North Manchester had the Benefit of John’s management services in 83 but their desire not to be famous left John in a tricky position with Sony their label. Those reading this who know the band will know why John still feels lucky to have worked with them.
’84 was quiet, notable only for the Casablanca caper which is best not gone into.
John was approached in 1985 by two ex Beat members to consider managing their new band ‘Fine Young Cannibals’ who at that time had been turned down by every major record company in the country. With only a handful of carefully selected shows and a broadcast on the TV show ‘The Tube’ the band was inundated with offers and signed to London Records. Their first album sold a million and after a little wait their second album released in 89 saw the band sell more records than any other recording artist in the world that year.
In the late eighties John took over the lease on the second oldest building in the city a Tudor farmhouse on the Moseley road and shared it with the then developing dance label Network records. John had no business connection with Network but did work with Neil Rushton from the label and the two of them were at the forefront of the dance explosion when they found and developed ‘Inner City’ from Detroit who were the first band to show that dance music could sell albums when their first record sold more than a million world wide. Neil and John also helped to introduced ‘Derek May’ and ‘Juan Atkins’ from Detroit to the world. ‘Inner City’, Derek and Juan are recognized now as vital originators of modern dance music.
Around the same time John funded the first recording by ‘The Wonderstuff’ and helped their subsequent manager David Aldridge negotiate the bands publishing deal before they went on to sell a million plus albums.
‘The Fanatics’ came into John’s life in the early nineties and he supported them through several changes until they became ‘Ocean Colour Scene’. Ocean Colour Scene’s first single was released through John’s label ‘Phffft Records’ and reached 41 in the UK charts and then Phonogram bought Phffft records.
Also in the early nineties John 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.
In the mid nineties John was a founder member/sponsor of the ‘Birmingham Media Development Agency’ and was later invited to be a board member of ‘West Midlands Arts’, a post he held for a year until resigning over WMA’s then “Black Arts” Policy.
John managed the career of ‘Alison Moyet’ around this time and although the album that he was involved in wasn’t commercially successful Alison still says that it was the first record that she made that she liked.
In the mid nineties John managed a Bhangra/Reggae group called ‘Stereo Nation’ who had a lot of difficulty being played on UK radio stations as they sang in a mixture of English, Punjabi, Hindi and Patois but did sell several million albums in India. Unfortunately, for both Stereo Nation and John, as John had funded this project heavily with his own money, the Indian record company involved never paid the royalties that were due and this coincided with the Asian financial crash of 97 so other nearby territories that might have saved the day didn’t. A rather tough time ensued but in touring India with Stereo Nation, like anyone else who visits India, John had his concept of being poor slightly re-adjusted.
In the late nineties John commissioned and co-produced two ground breaking musicals with Midlands Arts Centre, both to great acclaim. They haven’t yet moved on but bought a lot of joy to their multi cultural teenage casts and sold out audiences who saw them.
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.
John and the team’s production talents were used by the Ikon gallery to organize the music for their fondly remembered launch party.
Through the nineties and to date John has run a music publishing company publishing a wide range of writers from the area whose work has featured recently in many Channel 4 documentaries and dramas.
In 2001 John was music supervisor on a successful Swiss feature film ‘Fahne 7’ which went to number 4 in the Swiss box office and whose soundtrack album is the best selling soundtrack album ever for a Swiss produced feature film which admittedly isn’t saying a lot in sales but is nice. Subsequently John was invited to join the board of Vanquish Alliance the new Swiss feature film production company that grew from ‘Fahne 7’ John resigned from the board in 04.
Summer 03 in Birmingham John programmed the pre CBSO entertainment for the 20.000 strong crowd at Fireworks Fantasia in Cannon Hill Park for the City Council. He also partnered with the Birmingham Opera Company on Vocal Zone part of G37 for the City.
In 07 John worked on a most successful LSC scheme helping to develop new music industry managers and record labels in the West Midlands. Around this time he helped to launch Creative Republic in Birmingham, sat on AWM’s SIS COG and has been a board member of The Moby Duck Theatre Company. In 2010 he helped the Firefly Festival in Ludlow launch itself on the world and visited Kosovo consulting to Ulfah Arts. His work with the Digbeth O’lympics is going into Digbeth folklore but John is only responsible for the aquatic events. John is a big fan of the Birmingham Opera Company and does whatever they ask him to, this had led to acting, filming, recording and on several occasions running the bar.
Over the last decade John has enjoyed occasional tour managing across Europe which has given him the opportunity to stay up to date with the live industry, the most notable being Seasick Steve in 2013. The most recent TM work being with The James Hunter Six in Spring 2016 where John took the band around Europe. In 2010 John leased and ran an analogue recording studio in the city, which he ceased in April 2016 to concentrate on his new venture ‘GeoStreamers Ltd.’
The company is set to launch a new music app in Birmingham this Summer with plans to expand this year across the UK. Currently finalizing funding, the app project has led John to research where more than 100 Top 40 artists from the city first performed live. John is often asked to present at local music colleges and to attend events as an ‘industry expert’. He has recently worked with Walsall Studio College, Birmingham City University, Kidderminster College and Access to Music. He maintains good relationships with all the artists that he has worked with over the years and stays in touch with venues, promoters and artists across the West Midlands.