The Rhythm of Success, A Tribute to Chris Panayi

June 24, 2024

Chris Panayi, a living legend within the music industry, retired in March 2024, concluding his remarkable career with Hentons. From humble beginnings to becoming a stalwart in the music business, Chris’s path embodies commitment, perseverance, and integrity.

As he reminisces about his entry into the industry, Chris recalls his early years of feeling unfulfilled in general practice. His passion for music, particularly soul, blues, and jazz, served as a beacon, leading him towards a career where he could combine his professional skills with his personal interests.

“In April 1980, I was introduced to an international concert promoter of a show that I was attending. My wife’s close friend was working for him. I met Barrie Marshall at 2 further concerts, Steve Wonder – Hotter Than July concert at Wembley Arena and soon after that, Smokey Robinson at London Palladium. Doris Porterfield then informed me that Barrie had just fired his accountant and I pleaded with her to “throw my hat in the ring”.

Barrie remembered me from the in-depth chats we had about music and especially live shows. He asked to meet with him, and he said to me – You’re young, not in the business and I’ll give you a chance.

 I took that opportunity with both hands.  Suddenly, all my early years of feeling unsettled at various jobs disappeared and I knew that I found my spiritual home.  Suddenly, I was being invited to concerts, occupied the best seats and met the people of whom I was in awe, and I was getting paid for it.” said Chris.

When asked about what prompted him to start his own business, Chris mentioned “I was at a small venue in west London only a few weeks after officially working for myself when a guy approached me to ask me if I was that music accountant because he needed my help.  That’s when I realised that I could make a living by working for myself.”

Throughout his career, Chris has experienced numerous memorable moments, from small venues in west London to iconic stages like Madison Square Garden. Whether it was meeting renowned artists like Spike Lee or witnessing his clients’ performances in front of thousands, each experience left an indelible mark on his journey:

“I was at the Hammersmith Apollo watching my client Yolanda Brown when halfway through her set, she stopped to thank me by name for helping her in her career and 4,000 people applauded and cheered me.”

He cherishes moments like spending his birthday with his hero Bill Withers and seeing his teenage idol, Geno Washington, become his client:

“Meeting the 1st artist that I saw when I was 16 years old, Geno Washington, who I idolised and then when I was 58 years old, he asked me to be his accountant. For my 60th birthday party, he played an hour’s set and I got to sing with him in a hall that was filled with family, friends and pop stars.  My teenage dream was fulfilled.”

However, Chris acknowledges that his path was not without challenges. Coming from a non-privileged background and lacking a university education, he faced financial constraints and moments of doubt. Yet, his determination and belief in his abilities propelled him forward. He learned early on that success is not solely measured by financial gains but by the impact one has on others. For Chris, seeing his family thrive and his clients succeed has been the true measure of his accomplishments:

“There were downs and moments when it was difficult to see the light when I was in a long dark tunnel. In those situations, you have 2 choices. You either carry on and believe in your strength, in your resolve and knowledge or you sink to your knees.  There is no person who has ever made me sink to my knees.  When you are poor, when you live in 1 room, when eating and clothing yourself is a real challenge and you overcome those trials, and you never want to go back to that place, failure is not an option. People measure success by the money that they have in the bank and yes that’s important but seeing my family grow to be honest and successful in every aspect of their lives, that’s success; and that success was individually earned and not handed to them on a silver platter.”

Reflecting on his career, Chris emphasises the importance of integrity, honesty, and a deep understanding of the industry. He advises aspiring professionals to never compromise their values, to always deliver on promises, and to be mindful of the responsibilities that come with representing clients in the entertainment business:

“Working in the music industry carries the same disciples and constraints as any other business except more so. UNDERSTAND the nuances of your industry and the clients that you serve, it’s entertainment but you have to be an ambassador not only for your company but your family and yourself.  Your client and everyone involved with your client will be looking to you for leadership so never forget that there is only 1 star, and it is not you. The entertainment industry has its own rules which are far more demanding in respect of behaviour and honesty. Don’t breach them. Learn about business instinct and never be afraid to take a chance.”

As Chris prepares for retirement, he looks forward to new ventures and passions. From chairing a local football club to supporting music charities, his retirement promises to be as dynamic and fulfilling as his career:

“There’s plenty to do. There has been no time in my life when I have stood still, and my retirement will be busy from day one.  I want to spend far more time with my children and grandchildren. I want to play a round of golf without thinking – I wonder who has called or emailed or needs to talk to me. There are also a lot of music events for which I have received invitations, so my time will be more than filled.”

With a lifetime of experiences behind him and countless memories to treasure, Chris Panayi’s legacy in the music industry will continue to inspire generations to come.

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