Iron Maiden career has lasted for over thirty years, spans across four decades and has reached sales of over sixty million records worldwide of its twenty four releases. This article compiles and analyses the business decisions from the years from 1978 until 1980. This period of time was decided on because it was then when first contact with their management was made and important decisions about deals and touring were taken.
Whether the same business models and decisions would work for a band wanting to achieve success today is very much arguable. In retrospective, this snapshot in Maiden’s career is a great example of a band’s self-believe, perseverance and hard-work and the skill of the management who capitalised on the band’s momentum, realised their potential and send their career rocketing in a matter of months; even at a time when the music climate wasn’t necessarily conductive to Heavy Metal as Iron Maiden played it.
Most of the biographical information was taken from the band’s authorised biography by Mick Wall. Music business books were used to analyse and put into perspective the business decisions taken at the time by the band and its management.
First management involvement in Iron Maiden’s career and its role in the act’s early days
In the new year’s eve of 1978 Iron Maiden recorded their first demo at Spaceward studios in Cambridge in a 24 hour session at a cost of £200. In the following months they handed out the demo to various venues and djs in a bid to get gigs and exposure outside of the east-end of London where they were already well known by then.
One of the copies reached Rod Smallwood by late 1979. He liked the songs so much he decided to contact the band and come down to some of their gigs, at first, to informally give them some advice. Rod had previously worked as a booking agent and artist manager but was planning at that time to go back to university to become a lawyer (Wall, 2004:71).
Rod would work with the band without actually signing a contract for the next few months and as described by Steve Harris (bassist and band leader): “It was all down to trust”. The first management agreement was put down on paper after Rod had actually arranged their signing to EMI and publishers Zomba (Wall, 2004:86).
Until the end of 1979, Steve Harris (band’s bassist) had organised the band’s work and taken all the important decisions. He had found the members, written the songs, made posters, booked gigs, etc (Wall, 2004:71).
How was the Iron Maiden fanbase built.
Their fanbase was initially built locally in the east end of London by playing the live circuit in venues such as the The Harrow (Barking), Plough (Leytonstone) Bridgehouse (Canning Town) and the Ruskin Arms (New Cross).
With the help of DJ Neal Kay, they would play venues in Camden, Kinsbury and the Marquee in Wardour Street. Iron Maiden would become notorious for they live performances and word of mouth would help them attract more and more fans to their live shows.
What media outlets were the key supporters of the Iron Maiden.
Around the time, Neal Kay was a notorious heavy metal London DJ who organised gigs at the ‘Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse’ in Kingsbury, north-west London (Wall, 2004:66). Neal also compiled a heavy metal chart that was featured in a magazine called ‘Sounds’ and in which Iron Maiden ranked well, reaching number 1 and 7th positions with their four-tracks demo. There were only 4 major Music magazines: NME, Music Melody, Record Mirror and Sounds at that time in 1979.
In the summer of 1979, Neal Kay decided to book the three better charting bands of the his chart for a gig at the Music Machine in Camden Town (later to be called Camden Palace and now called KOKO). Iron Maiden performance was favourably reviewed by Sounds journalist Geoff Barton and the magazine started to feature more and more about the underground music movement called NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) of which Iron Maiden was ‘riding the crest’ (Wall, 2004:87)
Barton pursued the idea of compiling articles and reviews of these new up and coming bands on a new coloured magazine called KERRANG! but the idea was rejected at first by the Sound publishers who did not want to risk expending money on a magazine entirely devoted to heavy metal (Wall, 2004:89). They agreed to include and one-off shot with all the articles and reviews as a gift inside the usual Sounds issue. Another issue came afterwards which sold out within days and it became evident KERRANG! needed to be monthly magazine in its own right. (Wall, 2004:89).
At the Record Mirror magazine, Malcolm Dome wrote articles about Iron Maiden which he considered top of the NWOBHM pile (Wall, 2004:92).
By Juan David Lopez, Legal Consultant
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