Six sharpest hard-rock business brains

26 June 2015 -


As Linkin Park unveil their own venture-capital firm, we salute the rockers who have turned their talents to management and leadership in the world of enterprise

Jermaine Haughton

One minute they’re storming the stage, the next they’re rocking the startup world. This week, it emerged that nu-metal/rap-rock crew Linkin Park have taken up a journey into management and leadership by launching their own venture-capital provider to invest in new technology firms.

With under-the-radar, pre-launch investments in tech-flavoured travel and transport outfits – such as car-sharing service Lyft and low-cost courier Shyp – already under its belt, Machine Shop Ventures has outlined aims to fund “early-to-growth-stage, consumer-focused companies that align with the band’s ethos of connecting people and innovation through tech and design”.

In straitlaced corporate jargon rarely associated with rock and roll bands, the Californian sextet said it wants to use the new firm to “build a differentiated brand ecosystem”, and “ensure that our brand ethos is clear and … reflected in every brand touchpoint”.

So, Linkin Park clearly have far more than just sweaty, heaving moshpits on their collective mind. In light of their announcement, Insights presents six other purveyors of raucous rock who have convincingly turned their hands to enterprise:

1. Bruce Dickinson

Away from blaring music, the Iron Maiden vocalist’s other passion is flying. A qualified pilot, the “Air-Raid Siren” (as fans fittingly call him) is chairman of airline workshop Cardiff Aviation, which carries out maintenance, repair and overhaul services on passenger jets. Based at a former Royal Air Force compound in St Athan, south Wales, the three-year-old firm can work on up to four, narrow-body airliners at any one time, with enough high-security parking space outside for a further 20 aircraft. The rocker’s aeronautical business pursuits have recently taken him to Djibouti, where he reached an agreement with the country's government to help re-launch the nation's former flag carrier. The flying fanatic also holds an investment in the Hybrid Air Vehicle project – also known as Airlander 10 – which blends plane, balloon and hovercraft elements and is said to be the world’s largest aircraft. As if that were not enough, Dickinson is also the driving force behind Iron Maiden and Robinson Breweries’ joint-venture Trooper beer, which could yet spawn a slew of spinoffs.

2. Gene Simmons

Think of Gene Simmons, and immediately black and white face paint and outlandish, leather-clad costumes are bound to spring to mind. As the business guru within the US band and its de facto CEO, the Israeli-born bassist has aggressively sought to spread the Kiss brand as far and wide as possible. Since the band’s New York formation in 1973, Simmons has spurred his act to tie its distinct image and logo to more than 5,000 different items of Kiss merchandise – from T-shirts and hats to comic books, pinball machines and even coffins – earning hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

3. Gwen Stefani

Following an artisan-like Eureka moment in her kitchen more than a decade ago, the No Doubt singer set up LAMB clothing – an acronym for “Love Angel Music Baby” – to produce accessories that she wanted to wear, but which she felt the fashion market had failed to provide. Today, the clothing label holds extensive partnerships with retailers around the world, turning out line after line of luxury apparel, handbags, and shoes. Stefani – also a two-times-platinum-selling solo artist – said: “LAMB is a line that I want to wear every day.”

4. Sammy Hagar

As a man who has never been reluctant to admit that he doesn’t like working too hard, Hagar at least showed an ability to work smart with his founding, and subsequent sale, of Cabo Wabo Tequila. Creating the liquor company in 1996 – after sourcing the recipe from a family who had been making their version of the Mexican tipple for more than 80 years – the former Van Halen singer has turned the premium product into a worldwide success, winning several awards in the process. In 2010, Hagar sold his stake in the brand for £58m, but still owns a couple of restaurants associated with it, including the Cabo Wabo Cantina.

5. Perry Farrell

From its 1991 beginnings as a farewell-tour vehicle for his iconic band Jane's Addiction, Farrell’s Lollapalooza has become one of the world’s leading alternative music festivals – ranked Number One by US magazine Spin. Held in Chicago, the primarily rock, metal and grunge blowout has extended its appeal beyond music, providing a platform for art, food and numerous environmental and human-rights causes. Farrell has also taken the event on the world stage by creating Lollapalooza international with the launch of a two-day festival in Santiago, Chile in 2012. This year, he is planning to expand it even further with Lollapalooza Brazil.

6. Maynard James Keenan

The Tool singer and songwriter has made a name for himself in the wine trade in recent years, founding Arizona Stronghold – the biggest and most popular winery in the American state, and winner of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Awards and Taster's Guild International Wine Competition. Last year, Keenan and his co-founder Eric Glomski went their separate ways, agreeing that the former would take ownership of the Arizona Stronghold vineyard, while the latter would receive its brand name. Inspired by his grandparents and great-uncle who made wine in Northern Italy, the progressive metal singer also owns Caduceus Cellar, based in the Arizona burghs of Page Springs and Cornville.

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Image of Linkin Park courtesy of CyberEak / Shutterstock.

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