Factory Records was an influential British record label based out of Manchester. Founded by TV host Tony Wilson and band manager Alan Erasmus in 1978, the label was home to giants like Joy Division, New Order, The Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio and Happy Mondays, and was the “starter label” for bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and James. Like competing label 4AD, Factory relied on a producer (in this case, Martin Mannett) and a graphic designer (Peter Saville) to give the label’s releases a unique and consistent look and sound.
As anyone who has seen the film 24 Hour Party People will tell you, there were a lot of drugs being used by practically everyone at the label. In fact, one need only to look at the label’s catalog system to see that.
Almost every Factory release begins with the prefix “FAC”, except albums, which have the prefix “FACT”. “Special” numbers were reserved for big, important releases, so Joy Division’s Closer album is FACT 25, New Order’s Movement is FACT 50, New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies is FACT 75 and New Order’s Low Life is FACT 100. Because these “special” numbers were used, sometimes the catalog numbers seem out of order: New Order’s greatest hits album Substance is FACT 200, while Joy Division’s greatest hits album, also called Substance, is FACT 250, even though Joy Division preceded New Order.
The last digit of a catalog number was often reserved for certain bands, although there are many inconsistencies in its implementation. However, the last digit being 1 usually signified a release by Factory Corporate, 2 was used for Happy Mondays singles, 3 for Joy Division and New Order singles, 4 was used for Durutti Column singles, and 6 was reserved for short-lived “Factory Classical” releases.
The label also put several “jokes” in their release numbers. A double album called A Factory Quartet that featured four artists was given the catalog number FACT 24 (two records, four artists). A set of notepads created to promote New Order’s Technique album were released in February 1989, thus FAC 289. Jonathan Demme’s video for New Order’s “The Perfect Kiss” was given the number FAC 321, while the single itself was FAC 123 (aside from being cute, this actually conforms to Factory’s numbering system, where the last digit 3 is for New Order singles and 1 is for corporate projects).
You might have noticed in the previous paragraph that I mentioned that a set of notepads was given a catalog number. Factory gave catalog numbers to all sorts of wacky things:
FAC 47 – a Factory logo created by Peter Saville
FAC 51 – The Haçienda nightclub, which emerged as ground zero for Britain’s acid house and rave scene. Although the club was incredibly popular, bad management and lack of alcohol sales in the “rave years” meant that the club was mostly supported by New Order’s record sales.
FAC 61 – A lawsuit between the label and producer Martin Hannett.
FAC 83 – The Haçienda’s first birthday party.
FAC 86 – The Haçienda’s Christmas 1983 party.
FAC 98 – Swing, a hair salon inside The Haçienda.
FAC 99 – Dental surgery for Rob Gretton, Joy Division\New Order’s manager.
FAC 136 – Gaffer’s tape, decorated by Peter Saville.
FAC 152 – A “From Manchester With Love” t-shirt, designed by Saville.
FAC 171 – An art gallery installation for Peter Saville Associates.
FAC 175 – Origami boxes, designed by Saville and handed out by the label as Christmas presents.
FAC 191 – A stray cat wandered in to The Haçienda, and the “club cat” was assigned this number. Read more about the cat here.
FAC 201 – Dry, a bar.
FAC 215 and FAC 216 – Vin D’Usine Blanc and Vin D’Usine Rouge, white and red house wines for The Haçienda. The labels were, of course, designed by Saville.
FAC 240 – A Factory Records 10th anniversary wall planner.
FAC 251 – Factory Records’ new headquarters building.
FAC 259 – A Factory staff Christmas party.
FAC 265 – “From Madchester With Love”, a photograph.
FAC 281 – The Area, a shop.
FAC 283 – A “World in Motion” t-shirt, inspired by New Order’s World Cup song.
FAC 331 – A table designed by Design 3.
FAC 383 – Given to “The Vikings”, a group of longtime New Order fans who followed the band everywhere on tour, similar to Deadheads.
FAC 384 – Given to “The Vikings Under Fives”, the sons of The Vikings. A “junior league”, so to speak.
FAC 421 – Factory’s website.
FAC 424 – 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson’s book about Factory Records.
FAC 433 – A website for 24 Hour Party People, the film.
FAC 451 – A reconstruction of the now-closed Haçienda for the Party People film.
FAC 501 – Tony Wilson’s funeral.