Striking gold with heavy metal

Roger Trapp explains how Iron Maiden hit the right note for Sanctuary and, right, looks at a CD success story

When leather-clad bikers and other fans of heavy metal rock music turned up outside the headquarters of BBC Radio a few weeks ago to protest at the absence of their favourite sounds, they were able to back up their case by pointing to the success of a group called Iron Maiden.

But the long-serving stalwarts of a sound noted for its ability to attract fanatical devotees do not just have a big-selling greatest hits package to their name. They also form the bulwark of a company that earlier this month reported a more than 10-fold rise in pre-tax profits to just over pounds 1m on turnover up more than 133 per cent at 12.6m.

The Sanctuary Group, which was formed 20 years ago by two men who met while at Trinity College, Cambridge, attributes the rise in profits to the receipt of its first big contribution from Cloud 9, the television joint venture it has set up with Raymond Thompson, a former BBC executive.

The chief output of the project is a series of programmes based on Enid Blyton's children's adventures that has been sold to cable channels and video suppliers around the world.

However, the music services division, which has been managing Iron Maiden for the past 17 years, also turned in a strong performance. The group has also sought to boost its music productions arm by acquiring two of London's largest recording and rehearsal studios and entering a series of production deals with several key talentsand developing international licensing interests.

Indeed, Andy Taylor, chairman of the group, prides himself on the way Sanctuary has built itself up through the underlying philosophy of managing creative people and building businesses around them. "The problem with most creative people is that very few of them have business skills," he says.

Sanctuary is not the only organisation of this type in a booming music industry that makes Britain the fourth most important market in an international business worth $23bn. But Mr Taylor believes his organisation plays a key role in preventing small businesses in the sector being gobbled up by majors.

The company acts as an "umbrella organisation of management services". All the creative people involved are encouraged to run their own businesses and so keep their autonomy while at the same time having the advantages of fitting into a group infrastructure.

Mr Taylor, who first got into the business when he joined up with Rod Smallwood, co-owner of Sanctuary, soon after they left university, believes it is a positive advantage that he does not have much interest in music. A chartered accountant, he helped fund the fledgling group by working as finance director of a Swedish multinational. "Rod held the fort and I helped him run it at weekends," he explains. Among the acts the pair became involved with early on was Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, but things took off in 1979, when they discovered Iron Maiden in the east end of London.

Taking on the whole business side of the band quickly became the foundation of the company. In the early 1980s Sanctuary offered full business management services to other groups, including Wasp and Halloween.

Through business management the company moved swiftly into touring and tax advice and set up a special travel company to organise transport to overseas shows, a merchandise licensing division and a booking agency.

It even started an insurance brokerage but it became too big to manage and was sold, adds Mr Taylor. "We tried to create a whole package of professional services, leading to a one-stop shop," he adds, noting that each business is focused on a key individual who will have some kind of stake in the business.

However, by the early years of this decade Mr Taylor and his colleagues had decided to move in the direction of creating intellectual property rights besides carrying out management duties. Hence the television deal and the latest addition to the stable, a books arm concentrating on specialist serious titles.

All this activity has helped swell the staff numbers to more than 300. What brings them to the company's unprepossessing offices near Paddington station in London is the combination of freedom and professional back- up, claims Mr Taylor. "We offer them a small company with big-company backing. It's a much more conducive type of atmosphere." However, as a former finance director he stresses that this is not a totally lackadaisical set-up. Though the company shows its respect for creative folk by giving them freedom to pursue projects, they are still subject to controls.

Moreover, Mr Taylor realised that the company could not head off in a new direction without fresh capital. Consequently, in December 1994 Ivory & Sime Baronsmead, a venture capital organisation, took a 17.5 per cent stake in return for pounds 1.65m.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss