Rohin Dhar explores the success of the popular jam band, whose revenue from ticket sales over the past four years “handily [surpasses] more well known artists like Radiohead, The Black Keys, and One Direction”:
From 1989 onward, before the band had even been signed to a record label, Phish was profitable from live touring. … Because Phish achieved financial independence before the music industry even recognized them, they more or less could do whatever they wanted.
The took their early profits and started their own management company, Dionysian Productions. They hired a staff of 40+ people that handled their elaborate stage productions and back office operations. They built their own merchandise company so that their shirts and other paraphernalia reflected the band’s artistic sensibilities. They even started a mail order ticket company so that fans could send them money orders and buy tickets directly from the band.
… Perhaps more so than any major musical artist today, the Phish business model is derived from having hard core fans of its live music. When Madonna sells out arenas across the country, she’s selling tickets to her various fans that live everywhere. When Phish sells out arenas or festivals across the country, it’s because the same die-hard fans fly across the country to see the band. In the rare instances where fans don’t make the trek and the shows don’t sell out, the band punishes the no-shows by performing a particularly epic set. In a forum where ardent Phish fans compare how much money they had spent on going to see the band, the answers were in the tens of thousands of dollars.