Ministry of Sound
Company typeLimited company
Private members' club
Founded1991; 33 years ago (1991)
Headquarters103 Gaunt Street London SE1 6DP, England,
Key people
James Palumbo (founder)
Lohan Presencer (chairman)

Ministry of Sound or Ministry of Sound Group is a multimedia entertainment business based in London with a nightclub, shared workspace and private members' club, worldwide events operation, music publishing business and fitness studio.

James Palumbo is the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of the Group. He handed over the day-to-day running of the business to Lohan Presencer in 2008. In 2018, Presencer became chairman.


The Box (main room) at Ministry of Sound
The Box (main room) at Ministry of Sound

Ministry of Sound began as the idea of Justin Berkmann. Inspired by New York's Paradise Garage - which he described as "an amazing club. It had lights, darkness, music, quiet – everything you wanted"[1] As opposed to striking a balance between the typical hallmarks of a live music venue, Ministry of Sound was conceived as an arena purely dedicated to sound. Berkmann stated: "My concept for Ministry was purely this: 100% sound system first, lights second, design third (in that order); the reverse of everyone else's idea."[2] According to him, they spent £500,000 on the club's sound system, and the same amount again on soundproofing the club using magnesite: they wanted to be able to turn the sound system up as loud as possible without disturbing the neighbours, and tested it to a volume of 156 decibels without the sound leaking outside. In addition to drawing inspiration from the Paradise Garage, the club borrowed the idea of using changing set designs from another New York City club, Area, with the first being based around Blade Runner, Berkmann's favourite film.[1]

Berkmann was introduced to James Palumbo, who was working in property finance at the time, by Humphrey Waterhouse to realise the concept.[3] The site, a disused bus garage,[4] is located in Elephant & Castle in Southwark, London. The club opened on 21 September 1991 and has remained in this location since. Having considered "a load of daft names" for the club, including Get Off My Foot and The Ghost and Mrs Chicken, Berkmann came up with Ministry of Sound after walking past the Ministry of Defence Main Building.[1]

With opening sets from American house and garage DJs Larry Levan, David Morales, Roger Sanchez and Tony Humphries, as well as Paul Oakenfold,[1] Ministry of Sound grew as a clubbing venue.[5] According to Berkmann, it managed to empty rival nightclub Tramp for its first six months by drawing its celebrity clientele, before "they stopped coming and it was more about the dance music community".[1] It now attracts around 300,000 clubbers per year[4] and has hosted sets from popular DJs including: Adam Beyer, DJ Harvey, Dixon, Marshmello, Jozeff and Pete Tong. It has won the IDMA 'World's Best Sound System' award four years in a row - every year they ran the category.[6]

The capacity of The Box (the main room) is 600 people, and there are other smaller rooms within the club. There are three weekly club nights: Fridays feature Lock n Load brand The Gallery which are primarily trance music, whilst Saturdays host a number of club nights which are primarily house music. In 2016, these included Defected, Glitterbox, Rinse FM, Hospitality and Together. On Tuesday the club hosts a student session called Milkshake, established in 2002.[citation needed]

Threat of closure

Ministry of Sound's existence has been threatened on a number of occasions by nearby redevelopment in Elephant & Castle.[7] The most notable concerned the redevelopment of Eileen House, a tower block opposite the nightclub's entrance. From 2009 to 2014, Ministry of Sound fought various public campaigns to save the club from the threat of closure. These culminated in a hearing before then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson at City Hall in November 2013.[8] On 19 December 2013, a legal deal was agreed between Ministry of Sound and the developer Oakmayne to enable Eileen House to be redeveloped without jeopardizing the club's future.[9]

Dolby Atmos

In 2016, Ministry of Sound partnered with Dolby Laboratories to bring surround sound Dolby Atmos to the nightclub, a first in the industry.[10] The Box, Ministry of Sound's main room, now boasts a 64-speaker, 22-channel sound system, allowing the artists to control where certain sounds are sent across the space.[11]

The Ministry

Bar render at The Ministry, 79 Borough Road
Bar render at The Ministry, 79 Borough Road

The Ministry is a new members club and shared workspace for creative businesses, which opened in 2018 in London. The first building on Borough Road includes four floors of tailored private offices, shared working areas, meeting spaces, soundproof studios, an immersive tech suite, a full-service restaurant, a bar 70 feet in length, an outdoor terrace, a 40-seater cinema and an events space with a diverse events programme.[12]


Under its Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi brands, the business hosts approximately 500 international tour events annually across the world. In 2017, the brand featured as part of the stage line-up at festivals including The Ark (cruise ship),[13] Adria Summer Festival and Ultra Europe.


Busy fitness class at The Arches
Busy fitness class at Ministry of Sound Fitness

The fitness studio (previously the club's back-of-house vault where the alcohol was stored) opened in February 2017.[14] The concept takes a club-style sound system and lighting rig and pairs it with a bespoke, instructor-led high intensity interval workout. Classes run from Monday to Sunday, and an on-site bar offers a range of drinks from protein shakes to alcoholic cocktails.[15]

Music publishing

The music publishing business was established in 2015. It is independent of the record label that was acquired by Sony Music, and is headed up by Ben Bodie.[16] The current roster of artists includes Mura Masa, iLL BLU, Will Arcane, KDA and John Calvert.

Record label


On 10 August 2016, it was announced that Ministry of Sound's A&R and compilations recorded music business had been acquired by Sony Music.[17][18] Rights to all recordings under the Ministry of Sound name are now held and mostly distributed by Sony Music (excluding London Grammar catalogue which is distributed by Universal Music Group in most of the world and Because Music in France), with the remaining Ministry of Sound businesses retained within the original group.

Ministry of Sound was an independent record label split into two divisions: Artist & Repertoire and Compilations.

Artist repertoire

The Artist & Repertoire division was established in the early 1990s with releases on a 'Sound of Ministry' label imprint. Sound of Ministry was superseded by in-house labels Open, Data, Substance, Smoove and Rulin', which between them released a string of UK and international chart hits.

In 2009, the artist labels were consolidated under 'Ministry of Sound Recordings'. The first artist signed was Example, who achieved two UK number 1 records, three top 10s, two top 20s, two gold albums and one platinum number 1 selling album, Playing in the Shadows. Other notable label signings include Wretch 32, DJ Fresh and, more recently, London Grammar, whose debut album If You Wait reached platinum sales status in the UK, gold status in France and was number 1 on the iTunes Album Chart in Australia. In 2014, London Grammar were nominated for 'British Breakthrough Act' at the BRIT Awards.[19] If You Wait was also named iTunes 'Album of the Year 2013'[20] The artist label also continue to release dance singles, achieving three number 1 records in the UK in 2013 with Bingo Players feat. Far East Movement's "Get Up (Rattle)",[21] Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E's "Need U (100%)",[22] and Storm Queen's "Look Right Through".[23]


The compilations business was first established in 1993 with the release of Sessions Volume One,[24] a compilation album of dance music mixed by Tony Humphries.[5] The album was a commercial success. The business has now sold more than 55 million compilation albums worldwide.[4]

Radio show

Ministry of Sound Radio was an online only service broadcasting 24-hours a day from Ministry of Sound's offices adjacent to the nightclub.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Simpson, Dave (13 November 2018). "How we made: Ministry of Sound". Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  2. ^ Brewster, B. and Broughton F. (1998). The Manual: The who, the where, the why of clubland. Headline Book Publishing. pp.95
  3. ^ "'We debated the name. One idea that got dropped was The Mad Axeman on". 4 May 1996. Archived from the original on 15 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "James Palumbo I'm going to fight for my right to party". Evening Standard. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1998). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Dance Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 224. ISBN 0-7535-0252-6.
  6. ^ "IDMA 2013 Winners". WinterMusicConference. 1 January 2014. Archived from the original on 29 January 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  7. ^ "Boris intervenes in Elephant & Castle Ministry of Sound skyscraper battle". London SE1. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Boris delays Eileen House Ministry of Sound decision for a month". London SE1. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Ministry Of Sound Club Saved From Destruction". TranceFixxed. 11 January 2014. Archived from the original on 27 December 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  10. ^ Parsons, Jeff (24 May 2016). "Ministry of Sound's epic Dolby Atmos system has DJs lining up to play with it". mirror. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Ministry of Sound is getting a 22-channel soundsystem". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Ministry of Sound to open private members club in Southwark". Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Elrow and Ministry of Sound to go on The Ark party cruise". Mixmag. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Ministry of Sound has opened a fitness studio". Time Out London. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Ministry of Sound opens central London gym". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  16. ^ "Ben Bodie hired to head up new Ministry Of Sound publisher | Complete Music Update". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  17. ^ "'We debated the name. One idea that got dropped was The Mad Axeman on". 4 May 1996. [verification needed]
  18. ^ "SONY MUSIC UK ACQUIRES MINISTRY OF SOUND RECORDINGS - Sony Music". 10 August 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  19. ^ "British Breakthrough: The Story of London Grammar". Brit Awards Ltd. 19 February 2014. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  20. ^ "London Grammar claim itunes album of the year 2013". MusicWeek. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  21. ^ "Bingo Players, Far East Movement storm to No.1". Digital Spy. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  22. ^ "Duke Dumont, A*M*E win first number one single with 'Need U (100%)". Digital Spy. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Storm Queen scores UK number one single with 'Look Right Through'". Digital Spy. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Sessions Volume One". Discogs. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  25. ^ "Ministry of Sound Radio is No More". Sumo Radio.

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