Linkin Park: From rock band to venture capital fund
4 min read
24 June 2015
American rock band Linkin Park has brought on board a "creative business executive" to help its move towards global brand partnerships and venture capital, with music taking a back seat.
The group has sold over 60m records as well as becoming the first rock band to achieve more than one billion YouTube hits. It has also picked up two Grammys for best hard rock performance and best rap/sung collaboration for Numb/Encore with Jay-Z in 2006.
The band has now taken a different track, hiring Kiel Berry, a “creative business executive”, to turn it into a venture capital fund that functions like a tech startup. Linkin Park said music would now be featuring only as a “supporting role” to their work.
Berry met the group in 2013 – when it had already established the “innovation company” Machine Shop as a way to reach out to fans directly, and recognising the importance of direct relationships.
Berry said in the Harvard Business Review that, at that point, the group decided to make a “true paradigm shift” due to spiralling revenues from album sales and downloads.
He admitted that “technology has forced music artists to completely rethink the way they approach their business”. Berry suggested the most successful artists in this new landscape were those who had begun to branch out towards new business models and new industries in order to “strengthen their existing brands”.
For Berry, the Linkin Park name signified extensive global reach, which meant he could see plenty of “blue ocean” regarding future business opportunities outside the “narrow category of music”.
The business has moved towards functioning like a tech startup in that there’s less hierarchy and more agility – with all core business operations brought in-house. Band co-founder Mike Shionda said: “Our goal was to build an internal team of diverse talent to support the non-traditional endeavours the band plans to pursue in the coming years.”
Berry cited music mogul Jay Z as well as actor Jared Leto as individuals they had looked towards to examine their strategies regarding joint ventures and tech incubation and investment. Jay Z’s recent project of Spotify rival Tidal has had a mixed response since its launch – with two CEOs in less than three months and a battle to attract subscribers, not to mention another competitor on the horizon in Apple Music.
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Elsewhere though, the rapper and record producer has established himself as a successful entrepreneur – with clothing brand Rocawear, part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team and a real estate development venture.
After Linkin Park and Berry researched famous figures like Jay Z, who had mixed business with their other interests, Machine Shop Ventures launched in May as a fund to invest in early consumer-focused companies that “connect with people”. It aims to be a four-pronged model with video content, global brand partnerships, merchandise and venture capital.
Employees brought on board so far have a pedigree in establishing rock ventures – Lisa Kidd was recruited, who previously helped with Gwen Stefani’s fashion lines, as well as a strategy expert who worked on Beats by Dre.
Early investments include P2P transport network Lyft, mobile shipping service app Shyp and Blue Bottle Coffee.