7 Iconic Bands that Changed the Business of Music

From Inc.:

These trailblazers all sparked major changes in the music business. Use their examples as inspiration to shake up your industry.


Forget musical tastes. Ignore critical accolades. Set aside arguments about the merits of the music they created.

These seven bands–and one individual–sparked major changes not just in music but in the business of music.

Use their examples as inspiration to spark major changes in your market or industry. Someone has to be first–why not you?

(For fun I’ve also included my favorite song by each artist–although in one case “favorite” is a relative term. Feel free to guess which one.)

Led Zeppelin

Prior to Zeppelin, concert promoters typically kept the lion’s share of gate receipts. Gross receipts at the Beatles’ legendary 1965 Shea Stadium concert totaled over $300,000 (which might not sound like much but that’s $2.1 million in today’s dollars). The Beatles only took home a fraction.

Peter Grant, Zeppelin’s manager, leveraged his band’s growing popularity to negotiate better deals, with Zeppelin eventually able to take as much as 90% of the gate.

Other headlining acts soon followed suit, and the “balance of power” shifted dramatically in the favor of the artist–where it should reside.

Favorite song: The Rain Song

The Rolling Stones

Sure, the Stones win the longevity award. But early on they also were at the vanguard of artist ownership and control.

The Stones leased their master tapes to the record company, which then manufactured, distributed, and marketed the product but had no say in the content, creative process–and the record company did not own the copyright. Their deal with Atlantic Records was based on Led Zeppelin’s contract as well as the approach taken by people like Phil Spector, who recorded his artists at his own expense, free from interference or input.

The Stones also set up their own label at Atlantic, taking advantage of its production and distribution infrastructure while retaining creative independence.

Oh, and they also created the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, using it to record outside the traditional studio environment and also hiring it out to bands like Zeppelin, Deep Purple (who immortalized it in “Smoke on the Water”), Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, Wishbone Ash, and Iron Maiden.

And don’t forget their lips and tongue logo, a classic brand icon.


According to bassist Gene Simmons: “…I saw that we were a rock and roll brand, not just a rock and roll band.”

Over 3,000 product licensing categories later (including coffins), who can argue with him?

Even the band’s name was designed to be memorable. Paul Stanley said, “What about KISS? It felt so right… it really embodies so much of what we are. It’s heavy, it’s passionate, and it’s a name that no matter where you go in the world, people know that word, so in the beginning when we were nobody and nobody knew who we were, people would go, ‘Oh, KISS, I’ve heard of you,’ because it’s just a word you hear all the time.”

As Stanley also said, “It’s undeniable that the (non-traditional) revenue streams can be enormous, and to not maximize your potential outside of music would be absurd. It is the music business, and the business element doesn’t negate or detract from the other end of it. We’re a band, and we’re a brand. And without one, the other suffers.”

The next time you slip on your Beats by Dr. Dre or splash on some of Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend cologne (okay, maybe not) remember that KISS was there long before licensing was cool.

Continue reading the rest of the story on Inc.