This past weekend, 50,000 people received a free ticket to a Virgin Mobile-sponsored all-day music festival. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, you could see the legendary poet and singer Patti Smith — or, on the other end of the spectrum, Deadmau5, a guy in a giant mouse head with a mesmerizing light show.
Patti Smith at the Virgin Mobile Freefest.
Organizer and owner Richard Branson credits his Virgin crew for the idea of giving away tickets to young American kids during a recession, but surely it's love of music at an early age that makes all this possible. Branson started a brash independent record label, Virgin Records, in 1972. Now, he has more than 400 companies. He's a bright, original thinker and a very rich man.
Deadmau5 performs at the Virgin Mobile Freefest 2011.
I had 10 minutes to talk with Branson during the festival. At the time, one of his favorite bands was on stage, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. So, what do you ask a guy with his hands in space exploration, health care and grand humanitarian projects? I opted to hear his early music memories, beginning with the motivation to give away 50,000 concert tickets. We wound up talking about smoking pot with Peter Tosh, seeing The Rolling Stones as a youngster and signing the band to his label later, plus a lot more.