Kiss founder and co-frontman, Gene Simmons, is a businessman. It’s as simple as that. He will do and say almost anything to protect and promote his investments and properties. So when Gene Simmons says something authoritative, outlandish or controversial, you have to take it with a palmful of Kosher salt.
Recently, in an interview with Esquire magazine, an interview conducted by his son, Nick, Gene Simmons made the summary statement that Rock music is dead.
“Don’t quit your day job is a good piece of advice. When I was coming up, it was not an insurmountable mountain. Once you had a record company on your side, they would fund you, and that also meant when you toured they would give you tour support. There was an entire industry to help the next Beatles, Stones, Prince, Hendrix, to prop them up and support them every step of the way. There are still record companies, and it does apply to pop, rap, and country to an extent. But for performers who are also songwriters — the creators — for rock music, for soul, for the blues — it’s finally dead.
“Rock is finally dead.”
And what killed rock? According to Simmons, file-sharing.
“The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. And the real culprit is that kid’s 15-year-old next-door neighbor, probably a friend of his. Maybe even one of the bandmates he’s jamming with. The tragedy is that they seem to have no idea that they just killed their own opportunity — they killed the artists they would have loved. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t, because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.
“The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing because there’s a copy left behind for you — it’s not that copy that’s the problem, it’s the other one that someone received but didn’t pay for. The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work, and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.”
Simmons, like others before him, confuses the “death of rock music” with what it really is “the death of the music industry as I knew it”. These two things are not the same.
Contained within Simmons’ answer are the clues that he is clueless about what is happening around him in the business he started out in. For example, he equates “file sharing” and “downloading”.
A similar gripe was made by country superstar Vince Gill. Back in 2012, Gill griped about how cheap it is to buy music digitally.
“Income streams are dwindling,” said Gill. “Record sales aren’t what they used to be. The devaluation of music and what it’s now deemed to be worth is laughable to me. My single costs 99 cents. That’s what a (single) cost in 1960. On my phone, I can get an app for 99 cents that makes fart noises — the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with. Some would say the fart app is more important. It’s an awkward time. Creative brains are being sorely mistreated.”
What Gill and others miss is that the profit margin on a 99¢ download is almost 100% — for an independent musician. The trouble with older, established acts is that their record labels are selling digital downloads like mad, but not cutting them in on the action. They see the world through the lens of their old business models, angry that this new digital thing is paying them less.
But, despite Simmons’ fears, new musicians are not going his old route — the route of begging an A&R guy to come sign them up for the Sugar Daddy treatment at the expense of their creative freedom. The new vanguard is recording their stuff at home on Garageband, putting it straight onto iTunes and Myspace, and keeping more money off each download than Simmons or Gill get.
We’re not worried about the future of rock, Gene. You’re just worried about the future of Kiss. You guys have an old-school contract model. Sorry.
By contrast, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters — a band that sells like mad — looks at it this way:
“I think it’s a good idea because it’s people trading music. It has nothing to do with industry or finance, it’s just people that want music and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the same as someone turning on the fucking radio, it’s the same as someone putting a cassette in a cassette deck when the BBC plays a special radio session. I don’t think it’s a crime, it’s been going on for years. It’s the same as people making tapes for each other. The industry is more threatened by it because it’s the worldwide web and it’s a broader scope of trading, but I don’t think it’s such a fucking horrible thing. The first thing we should do is get all the fucking millionaires to shut their mouths, stop bitching about the 25 cents a time they’re losing.”
Or, even better: