Did a reported £2million deal with Fischerspooner nearly bring down Ministry of Sound? The story of how the label snatched victory from the jaws of defeat…

Last Thursday, I published an article about CamelPhat’s past life within a record label that Ministry of Sound worked with at a time when the Ministry was desperate to trim costs.

Turns out there’s a lot more to this story. To fully understand this, we have to go back to the late 1990s – Ministry were expanding fast within the UK and had ambitions to get even bigger. There was talk of trying to crack America – and then the millennium happened.

Two things. One was the fact that many superclubs faced a lean start to 2000 after gambling big on New Year’s Eve 1999. They’d paid over the top for DJs and ticket sales often failed to cover the costs of the evening. Ministry was not immune to this.

However, larger problems were to follow. Sales of house and trance started to decline from around 2001, so Ministry’s record label needed to start thinking differently. In 2002, they decided to sign Fischerspooner to the label – an electroclash duo formed in Chicago in 1998. Some reports at the time claim Ministry paid over £2million for the privilege.

Fischerspooner themselves won’t say how much they were paid, but stated in an interview with Red Bull that Ministry “made a ridiculous offer that was just stupid not to take”. In the same interview, they also admit they didn’t like Ministry of Sound, considering the label to be “tacky”.

Anyway, Ministry’s sales figures for Fischerspooner were terrible. The label had gambled big and lost – they were in serious trouble. Indeed, two sources confirmed to me that Ministry considered stopping all signings to the label in the period afterwards.

Amidst all this, a rival label had signed a deal with Universal and started releasing the Clubland compilations. All Around The World Records, based in Blackburn, had entered the compilation business. The deal was so big that, with Ministry’s troubles, it could have sank the entire company.

They needed a solution – and their saviours came along from Boss Records in Liverpool. The deal was simple, if not skewed heavily in Ministry’s favour. Boss would sign the records, promote them and see how they did through their outlets, mostly in the north west of England. If they were doing well, Ministry would then licence those records for compilations and for a wider release.

They established similar deals with several labels, but Boss was the largest. It ran until 2007, when Boss signed a deal to supply rival All Around The World Records. By then however, Ministry were in far better health and no longer so concerned about their rival.

In the end, however, Ministry kept signing records. Their most successful came from “Happiness” by Tomcraft, which helped make 2003 a turnaround year for the company. A certain controversy around the video for Eric Prydz “Call On Me” helped too…

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