Top 10 Most Successful Rock Star Entrepreneurs

(Image credit: JB Lacroix \/ Getty)

By reputation, rock stars are only good for three things: sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. But the days when hit albums and sell-out tours alone could sustain the lifestyle to which A-List rockers are accustomed have all but disappeared, forcing the smarter musicians to develop side-line portfolios. Meet 10 rock stars who have displayed that they have a real flair for business beyond the stage and studio.

Gene Simmons – American Football Club Owner

Gene Simmons is well known as a man who will do anything to promote his favourite brand. So when we heard that the 66-year-old bassist was about to have a Kiss logo etched on his helmet, we winced, but weren’t altogether surprised. Fortunately, it turns out that the helmet in question belongs on the heads of the players of LA Kiss, an American football team based in Anaheim, California. Simmons and Kiss bandmate Paul Stanley bought a share in the club in 2013 and the team currently plays in the National Conference of the Arena Football League, the highest level of professional indoor football in the United States. “Do they do merchandising?” we hear you cry? You know damn well they do, right down to the $14.99 LA Kiss “performance socks”. Check out the full range here.

Bret Michaels – Pet Accessories Supplier

When you’re as metal as Bret Michaels, everything rocks, even pets. Which explains the Poison frontman’s lightbulb moment back in 2012, when he suddenly realized that what was missing in his life was his very own brand of accessories for his four-legged fans. Exhaustive research of Bret’s website reveals that he’s only doing stuff for dogs - what’s wrong with cats, man? - but nonetheless, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the doggy bedding, which is “better than a tour bus”, and the irresistible Critter Racoon Dog Toy at a very reasonable $3.47. According to an interview with Fetch! magazine, many of the items in Bret’s collection feature “Michaels’ trademark bandana”: what self-respecting dog toy wouldn’t want that?

A cheeky little red, and the wine he produces...

A cheeky little red, and the wine he produces...

Dave Mustaine – Wine Maker Extraordinaire

There used to be a lot of people who believed Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine’s whine was appalling. But enough about his vocals, we’re here to talk about the booze the Thrash metaller has been producing since 2014. Mustaine and his wife Pam apparently bought a house near Fallbrook in San Diego County and being the good neighbours they undoubtedly are, took a stroll up the Fallbrook Winery driveway to introduce themselves to winemaker Vernon Kindred. Things moved on apace and Mustaine Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon California Symphony Interrupted Select 2012, priced at $40 a bottle, sold out all 59 cases made in less than 72 hours. Now Dave’s got a number of different wines to flog via his website, including ‘Blood of Heroes’ and Hook in Mouth’, and is being featured in Wine Spectator magazine. Tasty!

Bruce Dickinson – Plane Repair Engineer

Yeah, yeah, we all know Bruce flies Iron Maiden all over the place in their own Jumbo jet. But did you know that the man with an air raid siren for a voice really likes getting down to the nuts and bolts of the plane game? Dickinson is chairman of Cardiff Aviation, “a fully approved and certificated aviation maintenance company.” With 132,000 square feet of fully equipped hangar space and workshops it’s a good job he’s got a voice like a foghorn: imagine shouting for a spanner in there! The workshop has space for 20 narrow-bodied airliners and Bruce says his team can address “virtually any engineering or maintenance challenge.” That’s as may be, but if he really wants to impress us let’s see him can get the Classic Rock company Peugeot going on a freezing December morning…

Joey Kramer – Organic Coffee Fiend

Joey Kramer used to have problems with depression, but now that the Aerosmith tub thumper’s got his own organic coffee brand to run, we’re pleased to say that things are looking up. According to Joey’s Rockin’ & Roastin’ website, he’s “pounded the skins since his early teens fuelled by love for music and spirited beans.” Well, and drugs, frankly. But those days are all behind him, and 66-year-old Joey is now high on “providing high quality organic coffee at a fair price that will delight and satisfy our customers.” Not only does Joey offer the likes of the Ethiopia Whole Bean and the Sumatra Ground, but now he’s only gone and opened his first bricks and mortar Joey Kramer’s Rockin’ & Roastin’ Café in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

(Image credit: Denise Truscello (Getty))

Sammy Hagar – Rum Old Chap

Having decided he needed his very own tequila to make things go with a swing at his legendary Cabo Wabo Cantina nightclub in San Lucas, Mexico, Sammy soon found himself owning the second-best selling brand of tequila in the States. We’ll drink to that! Having offloaded 80% of the company for a cool 80 million bucks, Sam couldn’t resist launching a new project, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. “This is fun. I’m happy,” he says. Really, mate? Well, bully for you.

Neil Young – Quality Sound Impresario

Sixties rock legend Neil Young has a right bee in his bonnet about poor quality digital sound. And he’s here to banish shitty MP3 quality to the dumpster. In 2011, Young got investors galore to fund the PonoPlayer, “which supports high-fidelity audio up to 192kHz/24-bit resolution”, whatever that means. Neil told anyone who would listen that ‘Pono’ is the Hawaiian word for righteous and that he’s leading an audio revolution “so that we can all hear and feel what the artists created, the way they heard and felt it.” Unfortunately, some people have felt the need to piss on Neil’s chips. Yahoo Tech, for example, found there was essentially no difference in sound quality between the PonoPlayer and the bog standard iPhone. We’ve never listened to music through a PonoPlayer though, so who are we to judge?

Nicko McBrain – Rib Restaurateur

Iron Maiden’s drummer has been a Florida resident for many moons, and has successfully pulled off a one-man charm offensive to win the locals over – by targeting their stomachs. For five years already, Nicko’s Rock’n’Roll Ribs restaurant has been offering smoky Southern cooking with dishes such as barbecued pork and chicken. In case you were wondering, the background music is only rock’n’roll. “You won’t hear any lame, piped-in Muzak nonsense here!” guarantees McBrain.

Alex Lifeson – Nightclub Impresario

Rush’s guitarist has spent a few hours sipping the odd shandy in clubs around the world in his time, so it was no surprise when Alex Lifeson decided to open a club of his own in his native Toronto in October 1994. Owned by Lifeson and business partner Tim Notter, The Orbit Room looks like a 1950s New York cocktail lounge and is well known for its live music. The original house band, The Dexters, often found themselves a guitarist up on the deal when Al stepped in for a jam, and ‘Big Al Dexter’ even featured on two Dexters tracks, Born Under A Bad Sign and 1967 Again on the band’s 1995 album, Hip To The Tip – Live At The Orbit Room. It’s probably best that Alex steers clear of bombarding the club’s clientele with Rush songs, mind: imagine trying to enjoy a cocktail with the guitarist noodling his way through 18-odd minutes of Cygnus X-1.

(Image credit: @Metal4Men)

KK Downing – Perfume Peddler

KK Downing decided he’d had enough of squeaking around in all that leather gear in Judas Priest back in 2011, but his heart is clearly still metal to the core. So much so, in fact, that in 2014 the Brummie riff monster launched Metal, “an exciting range of new fragrances for rock and metal fans.” According to the brand’s website, Kenny spent “many months in development” before launching the Metal range. They don’t mean Kenny was in development, they mean the perfume. But whatever, at least you chaps know that when you splash it all over, the aftershave you’re wearing has passed the all-important Downing nose test! And don’t despair ladies, there’s no need for you to feel left out, not when there’s Metal Pour Femme, which in case you didn’t know is French for “Metal for laydeez!” Magnifique!

Howard Johnson is a music writer based in France. The editor of Rock Candy magazine, he's also written for Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, RAW, Q, MoJo and Japanese rock magazine Burrn!, and is a French football correspondent for World Soccer mag. He has also written a book on AC/DC, Get Your Jumbo Jet Out Of My Airport.