Number cruncher of the beast: What Iron Maiden can teach accountantsby
Tom Herbert hears how an accountant’s intervention led to Bruce Dickinson captaining an Iron Maiden-branded Boeing 757 around the world.
Have you heard the one about the heavy metal frontman at the accounting software conference?
On Monday I toddled along to SuiteConnect, NetSuite’s big London shindig. For those of you unfamiliar with NetSuite, they’re a cloud offshoot of tech behemoth Oracle, aimed at growing mid-market businesses moving off spreadsheets, QuickBooks, Xero etc.
Like any good Silicon Valley tech firm they’d booked a big guest, with the star turn provided by Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of heavy metal pioneers Iron Maiden.
While on the surface ERP software and rock music aren’t traditionally seen as bedfellows, Dickinson isn’t just another rocker looking for an easy payday.
As well as generating a fair amount of personal wealth off the back of his music (Iron Maiden’s Touring entity generated £20m in revenue in 2017 alone), Dickinson is a qualified commercial pilot, and also runs a diverse portfolio of businesses including an aviation parts company, a brewery and a fencing equipment outfit.
And in his keynote at SuiteConnect, Dickinson revealed how an altercation with an accountant led to one of the most famous episodes in the band’s history.
“Some accountants just live in the world of no,” he quipped, “not all of them, but some of them”. Back in 2008, his accountant had told him that despite huge demand from fans the band couldn’t afford to tour Australia due to the cost of air freight – an Iron Maiden road crew doesn’t travel light after all.
“Heavy metal was one of the first types of music to engage fans,” said Dickinson, “so I was really getting it in the neck for not touring down under.”
He realised that in order to satisfy the band’s legion of fans he had to come up with a business-orientated solution to take to his accountant.
At the time Dickinson also worked full-time as a commercial airline pilot, taking unpaid leave to go on tour with the band, and he used his knowledge of the industry to come up with an answer.
“In the winter, planes are cheap to rent because they’re used less,” he said. “It costs half a million a month just to park it up so you can get better rates. My idea was: we rent the plane, modify it with our logo and go around the world exactly where we need to be.
“The business case for it was compelling,” continued Dickinson. “Customising an airline with our name all over the side of it and transporting our equipment, crew and band in it.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/CloudSurferUK
“From my perspective, it was ‘that easy’ but the devil is in the detail. I came up with the crazy idea, a whole team of people executed it and six months later we had permission.”
In Dickinson’s words, the move galvanised what seemed like the whole world. “It was covered by everybody,” he said. “We grew the band massively because of it and made money. My accountant said ‘can we do it again next year?’ and we ended up doing it three times.”
Dickinson’s ‘right team, right people’ philosophy continues to pay off. The band played to 380,000 people at nine shows in North America this year, with more dates in the pipeline.
The Iron Maiden frontman’s final words of wisdom for the room was to keep communicating, keep your integrity and stay creative. Those that don’t may find themselves part of an anecdote at a software conference sometime in the future!