Legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden has a secret, and the government probably won’t like it.
These days, in order to succeed in the music industry, you have to know how to reach your fans—even the ones who are pirating your work. So when the London Stock Exchange listed longtime Iron Maiden as one of the entertainment sector’s rare outperforming bands, it caught the attention of U.K. analytics specialist Music Metric.
Nearly every part of the music industry has been hurt by the era of online file-sharing, from record stores to music labels. How, then, is Iron Maiden pulling in revenue of up to $33 million annually?
According to CiteWorld, the music industry analyst wanted to see for itself what Iron Maiden’s secret was, so it decided to run stats on Iron Maiden’s shares and social network performance globally to see what it could find.
In Iron Maiden’s case, Music Metric noticed that downloads of the band’s music were growing in South America and Mexico in conjunction with the band’s Twitter presence in those areas.
Iron Maiden could have tightened security and worked on issuing takedowns in those countries. Instead, the band took a different approach.
Advocates of free distribution models in the music industry have been arguing for a long time that what musicians lose in distribution in today’s digital world they can make up through concerts, live performances, merchandise, and other sales that help build their fanbase and offset the loss of revenue due to filesharing.
Iron Maiden apparently bought into this argument. Instead of trying to restrict file sharing in Latin America, they started promoting more and more heavily there, touring extensively and filming part of their 2009 concert documentary Flight 666 there.
Their focus and efforts paid off: in a single year, they grew their online social network presence by over 5 million. And more importantly, they’d successfully converted freeloaders into fans who were willing to pay for the Iron Maiden experience. A single 2011 concert in São Paolo alone grossed $2.6 million. The London Stock Exchange estimated Iron Maiden’s total revenue at nearly $33 million annually.
Over a decade ago, one heavy metal band, Metallica, was one of the first artists to take a stand against illegal downloads of its music. Today, while filesharing is still controversial, approaches to the problem are evolving. For now, at least one classic rock band has embraced the ease of free distribution as a way to stay relevant in an industry that’s running free.
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