Music’s most business-savvy acts

05_Music_s most business-savvy acts

By James Lane
(Australian Associated Press)

Business savvy and versatility have never been more important for success in today’s music industry, beset by dwindling profits.

Here are three of the cleverest who prove that staying successful is an art in itself.


The much-missed rock `n roll chameleon possessed unerring business savvy, an appetite for risk and a prescient sense of the music industry’s future.

His smartest deal came in 1997 when he spruiked “Bowie bonds” to Wall Street – a move that would see the bonds pay interest from his old song royalties. It was an innovation for both the investment world and entertainment industry, as the bonds allowed him to collect $US55 million ($A72 million) up front instead of waiting for royalties to trickle in over many years.

The Bowie bonds were tied to royalties from 25 albums, including The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, that the singer recorded before 1990. Wisely, future works were excluded.

And were investors enticed by bonds tied to royalties from a singer’s hits? Well, Prudential Insurance Co of America knew a good risk when it saw one and quickly snapped up them all up.

In 2002, Bowie also foresaw music streaming years before Spotify when he predicted that music “is going to become like running water or electricity”.

He also spoke of record labels becoming less important.

“I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way,” he told The New York Times.

“The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it.”

Bowie’s understanding of the dwindling profitably of a new online model continues to spook artists and record companies.

“… just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.”


It might be only rock `n roll but fans of the Rolling Stones have been liking it for more than 50 years.

The Stones for all their sex, drugs and debauchery, have proven to be the masters of staying at the top of the ever-changing music marketplace.

Much of the credit should go to Mick Jagger. In 1963 he won a place at the prestigious London School of Economics. He dropped out after a year, but has shrewdly applied what he learnt there.

Early in their career, the Stones realised absence really does make the heart grow fonder. After 1966, they would tour only once every three years, or less. This turned their shows into events – and for that reason this writer willingly forked out $200 to see them play during their 2014 Australian tour. As the song goes, this could be the last time… Or will it?

And while on the subject of the wrinkly rockers’ last Australian visit, the Stones raked in about $25 million after playing the first three Australian cities alone, according to Billboard magazine.

Satisfaction? You bet.


This rap entrepreneur was worth a cool $US700 million ($A923.00 million) last year, according to Forbes estimates.

Dr Dre’s success is twofold: one as an influential producer/rapper and secondly as an audiophile who did something about the poor quality of headphones.

The 51-year-old gained fame as MC of seminal hip-hop act NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitude) which popularised gangsta rap. Along the way Dr Dre launched the careers of Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar and has produced acts such as Jay-Z, 50-Cent, Gwen Stefani, Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur.

In 2001 he made his first big business move when he sold his Aftermath Entertainment to Interscope for an estimated $US52 million.

Looking for a way to combat music piracy and substandard earphones, Dr Dre founded Beats Electronics in 2008 after teaming up with fellow record producer Jimmy Iovine. Apple bought the company in 2014 for $US3 billion.

Unusually for a rapper, Dr Dre is a very low-key personality, particularly when compared with the hyperbole of Kanye West (who, of course, claims to be broke).

An interview with Esquire magazine revealed Dr Dre to be a true mogul at heart.

He said he had little interest in hearing his own records: “Once it comes out, for me, it’s just business. Numbers.”


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