Factory was founded in 1978 by Granada TV presenter Tony Wilson, band manager and unemployed actor Alan Erasmus, graphic designer Peter Saville (who designed all their posters), record producer Martin Hannett and Joy Division Manager Rob Gretton.
The label had an esoteric roster of artists but one act towered above the rest: Joy Division won critical acclaim, infiltrated the student heartland and seemed set to become one of the most important and influential groups of the 80s. Sadly, their career was tragically cut short following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis on 18 May 1980.
When New Order emerged from the chaos of Joy Division few could have predicted that they would still be around a decade later. Fewer still would have guessed that they would evolve into dance specialists and issue the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time (Blue Monday).
Throughout this period the group forged strong links with Factory, acquiring a financial interest along the way. In doing so, they achieved greater control over their product than virtually any other hit group of the 1980s.
Everything Factory did had its own ‘FAC’ catalogue number, from the very first flyer to a lawsuit filed against the label by Martin Hannett. In May 1982, Factory and New Order opened a nightclub called the Haçienda (FAC51) in a converted Victorian textile factory near the centre of Manchester.
By 1992, Factory was in serious financial trouble, largely due to overfunding their two most successful bands. Happy Mondays went on a drug binge recording their fourth and final album, Yes Please! in Barbados before leaving the Factory label. New Order allegedly spent £400,000 recording their comeback album Republic.
Factory Communications Ltd declared bankruptcy in November 1992 and many Factory signings moved to London Records, including New Order.
Tony Wilson attempted to revive Factory Records in 1994 with cooperation from London Records, as ‘Factory Too’. The first release was from The Durutti Column, followed by Hopper, Space Monkeys and new signing Stephin Merritt’s The 6ths.
The label continued until the late 1990s with ‘Factory Once’ which reissued old Factory material. Frustrated by London Records’ need for profit, Wilson left and founded the short-lived Factory Records Ltd with only Space Monkeys on his books.
In 2006, Wilson launched F4 Records with a “grime” collective called Raw-T. The label folded in 2007 when Wilson discovered he had cancer.
He died of a heart attack in Manchester’s Christie Hospital on 10 August 2007 aged 57. Wilson’s coffin was given a Factory catalogue number: FAC 501.