Let me start this post by emphasising I do have a certain amount of respect for Defected boss Simon Dunmore. Yes, I might well have some fun at his expense on this blog, but his record label is still here. Most of the house labels around in 1999, when Defected was set up, have long been dead and buried.
And it appears Dunmore is in a nostalgic mood today – perhaps inspired by the Dance For Stevie event this coming weekend. He’s tweeting about his label’s long standing relationship with Ministry of Sound…
Ministry of Sound….we’ve been throwing great parties there for almost 20 years! pic.twitter.com/FwhylqAv8h— Simon Dunmore (@SimonDunmore) September 28, 2021
But things weren’t always this rosy. Defected came about because of changes within the dance music world. In 1998, Ministry of Sound was doing incredibly well and the majors weren’t best pleased. Their response was to stop Ministry from getting access to almost their entire repertoire for their highly successful compilations.
Ministry of Sound responded to this by trying to set up some other labels. They offered Dunmore £200,000 to set up his own record label. Under the deal, Ministry would do certain back office jobs and Defected would sign and licence records – these tracks would be given prominence on Ministry’s compilations.
The label launched early in 1999. Releases by Defected that year came from the likes of Soulsearcher, Capriccio, Paul Johnson, Masters At Work, Powerhouse and ATFC. But behind the scenes, things were chaotic. Don’t take my word for it – take it from Simon Dunmore himself.
In an interview with the London Evening Standard in 2013, he said “I hadn’t run a label before so getting to learn about leases and company house returns and tax implications, dealing with staff and human resources was all entirely alien to me. For the first two or three years we made some quite big mistakes – not big enough to kill us, but big enough.”.
Dunmore also mentions that despite having worked at EMI sublabel Cooltempo and Polygram outfit AM:PM for nearly ten years before, he wasn’t aware of royalty collectors MCPS. However, they’d heard of him – and they called him in for a meeting to ask why he hadn’t paid some £140,000 worth of royalties.
Reading between the lines of this interview – and several others where he speaks about Defected’s early years – it appears the relationship between him and Ministry of Sound deteriorated quickly, and I suspect part of it was because they expected Dunmore would have been more aware of the business side than he was. I also suspected they thought they would have more control over Dunmore than they actually had.
Defected and Ministry of Sound split officially in 2001, with Defected being in debt to the tune of £500,000. Curiously however, Defected’s tunes continued to feature heavily on Ministry’s compilations even after the breakup. But ultimately, the two were drawn closer together as their labels suffered during the digital age and they had to rely more on the events side of their businesses.
And now, they’re best buddies. Who said romance was dead, eh?