Ever since the 1970s, a fiction has existed about the rich-and-famous rock star. According to legend, he only travels by Learjet or stretch limousine. He drinks only the finest Champagne. He has an endless supply of women, all of whom stand at the ready to serve as muse for his next big hit. Forty years ago this may have been true, but today the reality is quite different. Thanks to illegal downloading and almost nonexistent streaming royalties, rock musicians simply don't make the kind of money they once did.
Even heavy metal and hard-rock musicians, who boast some of the most devoted fans on Earth, can in some cases barely make enough to get by. Canadian heavy metal musician Devin Townsend has enjoyed a busy career for more than 20 years, but in February he told the Music Business Facts Podcast exactly what that's worth in monthly terms. "About five grand a month, before taxes," he said.
This is where entrepreneurialism comes into play. What follows is a list of 10 very successful rock musicians who have made sure that if gigging on a grand scale ever ends and technology upends the royalty streams on which they have been able to depend, entrepreneurship sustains their fortunes.
—Dan Bukzspan, special to CNBC.com
Posted 31 July 2015
Joey Kramer is the drummer for Boston hard rockers Aerosmith. The group's lead singer, Steven Tyler, and its guitarist Joe Perry might have earned the Toxic Twins nickname for their hard-partying ways of yesteryear, but that doesn't mean Kramer hasn't seen his share of crazy times.
"I'm no stranger to the rock 'n roll lifestyle," Kramer said on the website of a business he founded. "For the past 40-plus years, I have hit the circuit hard and have lived through some unbelievable experiences—both high and low—and have come out on the other side. During this whirlwind that has been my life, I've grown to appreciate the little things and have found a new way to share my passion with everyone: Rockin' & Roastin' Coffee,
With that in mind, Kramer founded the high-quality organic Rockin' & Roastin' Coffee, whose "mission is to provide coffee at a fair price that will delight and satisfy our customers." Its roasts include Ethiopia whole bean, Guatemala whole bean and Sumatra whole bean.
Bret Michaels is the lead singer of the glam rock band Poison, who will forever be remembered for the 1988 power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
While this is a monumental contribution to humanity in its own right, he was also the winning contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice 3," starring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and the star of the VH1 reality show "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels," which saw him sift through 25 female contestants in search of true love.
The singer is also an animal lover, which provided him the impetus to create his signature "Pets Rock" collection of pet accessories. One can almost hear Michaels crooning, "Every dog has its bone." But as an entrepreneur, he's going even further. Sold exclusively at PetSmart, earlier this year Michaels' official site featured a one-time addition of cat toys to the formerly dogs-only line.
If you've been any kind of rock fan in the last 40-plus years, you know perfectly well that Gene Simmons is the bassist and sometime lead singer of KISS. If you read financial publications, then you also know that he has displayed cunning business instincts on more than one occasion.
Simmons recently told the BBC, "Life is business, and I approach life the way sharks approach life—they must keep moving or else they will drown. I'll never stop hunting more money, I'll never have enough."
And it's true—even with a fortune estimated at $300 million, Simmons' business efforts multiply. One of his more recent is another kind of playing to crowds in arenas—the arena football arena. Simmons is co-owner of the Los Angeles Kiss team, whose merchandise page helps continue Simmons' lifelong project sticking the word "KISS" on anything he can possibly sell.
He's not the only rock star taking to the "B List" grid iron (but more on that later).
Paul Stanley is Gene Simmons' band mate in KISS. While he may be less outspoken than his band mate about the business end of things, he has a not-inconsequential entrepreneurial streak himself—he is one of the Los Angeles Kiss' co-owners.
Another venture that Stanley is involved in is the Rock & Brews restaurant chain. It was founded in 2012, and while co-founder and band mate Gene Simmons took the flack that comes with doing the publicity, Stanley was there, too, and according to the restaurant's official website, the rockers also function as the establishment's "Rock & Roll Ambassadors."
When lead singer David Lee Roth left Van Halen after their multiplatinum "1984" album, Sammy Hagar was there to catch the microphone. Ten years of hit albums followed, but in 1996, Hagar was out of the picture. Luckily, he had already established numerous business ventures, including his Cabo Wabo brand tequila.
According to the product website, it embodies the singer's "beliefs of living free, working hard and playing harder."
And making money. In 2007, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Hagar had sold an 80 percent interest in Cabo Wabo Tequila to Gruppo Campari for $80 million.
Bruce Dickinson is the lead singer of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. His banshee shrieks have graced such classic tunes as "Run to the Hills," "2 Minutes to Midnight" and the thunderously galloping "The Trooper." The singer took the title of that song and gave it to Trooper beer, which he created in conjunction with Robinson's Brewery.
Dickinson has toured the world countless times and is also a trained commercial airline pilot, but even he admitted to suffering a case of nerves when it came to this partnership.
"I'm a lifelong fan of traditional English ale; I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when we were asked to create our own beer," he said. "I have to say that I was very nervous: Robinsons are the only people I have had to audition for in 30 years. "
The Canadian power trio Rush is in its 40th year, and the members have always been musicians' musicians. Instantly identifiable by the piercing shrieks of bassist Geddy Lee and the virtuoso percussion of drummer Neil Peart, their sound is completed by the six-string flights of fancy performed by guitarist Alex Lifeson.
The guitarist is also co-founder of the Toronto nightclub The Orbit Room. Founded in 1994 by Lifeson and Tim Notter, the club's official website says that it "harkens back to the mid-'60s when clubs like Le Coq D'or, the Colonial, Club Bluenote and others hosted live entertainment that had their own sound, their own vibe, and their faithful followers."
Bass player Michael Anthony was always the least flamboyant member of the arena legends Van Halen. In contrast to the guitar pyrotechnics of Eddie Van Halen and the high-flying acrobatics of lead singer David Lee Roth, Anthony was the group's calm center, a role that he played until his departure a decade ago.
On his website, Mad Anthony Café, he sells a variety of sauces, such as barbecue, hot mustard and a signature hot sauce that once bore the slogan "So hot you'll need two a**holes." According to a 2010 interview with entertainment reporter Bryan Reesman, this caused some problems insofar as getting Trader Joe's to stock it.
Guitarist K.K. Downing was a founding member of the seminal heavy metal band Judas Priest. On his watch, the band produced such undisputed classics as "Screaming for Vengeance," "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Metal Gods."
He left the group in 2011, but did he mothball his guitar and put 40 years of rocking behind him? Absolutely not. Instead, he created his own line of cologne, Metal for Men, an eau de toilette of which stateside customers can buy 3.4 fluid ounces for just $59.99 from Amazon.com.
Vince Neil is the lead singer for the glam metal band Mötley Crüe. His presence on such classic albums as "Shout at the Devil" and "Dr. Feelgood" cement his legacy with the foursome, but he has always engaged in multiple business ventures outside of the band. His most current such venture is his co-ownership of the Las Vegas Outlaws arena football team.
"It's going to be total craziness," he told the arena football publication ArenaFan.com. "It's rock and roll football. It's in your face football."
Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out the way Neil planned, or as well as the football field has played for the Kiss band members. The Arena Football League took control of the struggling enterprise earlier this month, a move the league said it made to "solidify its financial condition."