He’s spent the last 30 years yelling at people to “Run To The Hills”, but now Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson is leading an altogether different charge, announcing bold plans this week to launch a plant for rebuilding aircraft. The company he is spearheading – Cardiff Aviation Ltd – will be based in a South Wales enterprise zone nestled in the Vale of Glamorgan, and aims to create 1,000 jobs over the next 18 months.
With the double-dip recession looming large over entrepreneurial life in the UK, Dickinson’s plan is a natural extension of the never-say-die grit that has helped Maiden towards album sales of 85 million units, and spawned six solo albums from the tireless renaissance man. The venture is also a logical progression from his love of flying: the singer is a qualified commercial airline pilot. Not content with this, and leading one of the world’s biggest metal bands on seemingly never-ending tours, he is also a keen fencer and once wrote a series of bawdy humour novels, starring the decadent Lord Iffy Boatrace.
Another frontman with unending energy is U2′s ubiquitous singer Bono. Not content with leading U2 on world tours incorporating the latest technology, and lobbying world leaders over third world debt, he is famously a member of Elevation Partners – a private-equity firm focused on the entertainment business. After some early disasters – 24/7 Wall Street once claimed that Elevation was “arguably the worst run institutional fund of any size in the United States”, following failed investments in Forbes, Palm and Move.com – the group appears to have found its feet recently, and on solid ground – chiefly through its 1.5% stake in Facebook, purchased for $90m, which is expected to be worth $1.5bn if the company’s IPO proceeds as expected. It has also just invested in online-storage facility Dropbox, another web startup that has been tipped for greatness.
Stir into this the multitude of entrepreneurial hip-hop artists, led by Jay-Z, P Diddy and Dr Dre, and a pattern emerges: successful frontmen also have a knack for being successful entrepreneurs and managers. A music industry insider once told me that if any of the biggest rock stars weren’t fronting bands, they would simply be CEOs of companies instead, and it certainly seems true that the personality traits of frontmen equate well with successful businessmen:
- Huge amounts of self-belief
- The ability to brush off mistakes
- The willingness to take a risk with the possibility of (literally, when climbing speaker stacks…) falling on your face
- An enormous work ethic
- Hunger to learn
In addition, a successful band witnesses first-hand the huge machine that operates around it when success comes – with small armies and rigorous logistics required to make a gig or tour happen, and to release a record. Some bands may withdraw from this process and rely on their management to shield them from the hustle and bustle so they can concentrate on their art. But for those who are interested enough to learn, there is no better place to witness the fruits of hard work, good organisation, vision – and leadership.
Of course, it is easy to believe that everything you touch will turn to gold when you have 50,000 people treating you like a god every evening. But it requires determination and hard work to expand into other areas – and with Bruce clearly exuding these in abundance, who knows what venture he will come up with next?