Linkin Park says it’s now a venture capital firm instead of a band

With the traditional music business crumbling, the band called on Harvard Business School to reinvent its business model

 
Lead singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park silhouetted onstage during a concert.
Lead singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on stage during a concert in Mexico City, June 2015. (Manuel Velasquez/LatinContent/Getty)

How does a rock ‘n’ roll band make bank in 2015? Unless your name is Taylor Swift, the answer is, any which way you can. If you’re Linkin Park—remember them?—you’ve found some creative ways to leverage your brand.

But according to a Harvard Business Review blog post, Linkin Park have taken the concept of the-band-as-business to the next level. They’re now also a venture capital firm.

Here’s how it happened: In 2013, the band realized they needed help to find a new business model and hired Kiel Berry—a former JPMorgan executive-turned-marketer—as the new executive vice president of Machine Shop, their proprietary company. He took a look at the business and saw lots of “blue ocean” beyond the narrow category of music. So he took the problem to Harvard Business School, where students conducted a semester-long independent study of Linkin Park’s business. After picking apart the various business endeavours of other artists like Jay Z, Tyler the Creator, and Jared Leto, as well as the evolution of companies like Vice Media and Red Bull, they made some suggestions to the band. In May, Linkin Park  launched Machine Shop Ventures, their new venture capital arm. The firm, which focuses on “investing in early-to-growth-stage consumer-focused companies that align with the band’s ethos of connecting people and innovation through tech and design,” already has investments in Lyft, Shyp, Robinhood and Blue Bottle Coffee.

They’re not the first recording artists to dip a toe in Silicon Valley investing. You’ll remember that in 2012, Justin Bieber led a $1.1 million in the selfie-based social media network Shots of Me. Snoop Dogg has invested in a marijuana delivery startup. And of course there’s U2’s Bono, whose private equity firm Elevation Partners was rumoured to be in trouble before its Facebook investment came through. But Linkin Park might be the first recording artist to admit that Silicon Valley are producing the real cultural rock stars these days. As Berry writes at HBR.org:

To be clear, we are still in the music business, but creating and selling music now plays more of a supporting role in our overall business mix. As we get ready to headline a five-city stadium tour of China this summer, we are also planning to meet with technology companies, consumer brands, and venture capital firms to discuss opportunities for partnership. Of course we’ll play the shows and meet with fans, as we’ve always done. But along with continuing to make great music, today’s Linkin Park is now better positioned to operate in the ever-evolving cultural and business landscape.

Or as co-lead singer Mike Shinoda told CNNMoney, “To be around that kind of culture with people who are super cutting-edge thinkers who are so smart, that’s inspiring to me. I feel like we’re more at home [in Silicon Valley].”

Such a far cry from rockers not wanting to grow up.

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