The moment that I heard Gene Simmons give his reasons for stating that “rock is finally dead,” I thought that he came off as clueless and elitist. After all, Simmons no longer embodies anything that rock is, or ever was, for that matter. Unlike Sammy Hagar, a musician who happens to also be an incredibly successful entrepreneur, Simmons is the opposite – an incredibly successful entrepreneur who happens to also be a musician.
He will most likely never read this article, and if he did, he would simply laugh it off and dismiss it. Perched in his ivory tower, Simmons is as far away as you can get from the front lines, where rock is very much alive and well, albeit in a different form than he is accustomed to.
THE END OF “KISSTORY”
Will there ever be another band that achieves the financial success that KISS has enjoyed through the years? Highly unlikely, for numerous reasons, none of which being Simmons’ ridiculous premise that rock is dead.
If KISS could start over today and replicate every move that they made since their inception, they would not have a fraction of the success that they have enjoyed in their career because times have changed. Furthermore, Simmons would not be able to line his pockets by shamelessly slapping his iconic band logo on an arena football team, a casket and everything in between.
This may sound like sour grapes from someone who never liked KISS or Simmons, but nothing could be further from the truth. KISS was arguably the most influential band of my youth. I still remember getting the KISS Alive II cassette with the boombox that I got for my birthday. The poster that came with the Dynasty album was probably my all-time favorite band poster. For many years, I considered KISS the best concert that I had ever attended (Animalize ’84). And during my freshman year of college, dressed as Gene Simmons, our KISS airband won the campus-wide contest.
Like many people from my generation, I idolized KISS (Simmons in particular), but I started growing weary of him when he became less mysterious and cool, and more of a Donald Trump-like parody of himself. The final straw for me as a Simmons fan came long before his ridiculous statement that rock is finally dead, which by the way, is something that he declared in Esquire Magazine. Talk about being out of touch with today’s rock music and fans!
FANS BE DAMNED
No, the final straw for me came when Simmons refused to play a single song with original band members – Ace Frehley and Peter Criss – when KISS was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April. If Simmons cared about the fans at all, he would have put any bitter feelings aside, and performed one last time with the original lineup. Instead, he made the induction all about himself as he stood on his soapbox railing against the voters who chose to only induct the original members of the band, and not their long-standing replacements.
Insufferable rock stardom may be dead, but rock music is very much alive and well. Perhaps what Simmons finds most distasteful is the fact that the genre has been forever changed, and is now more fan-friendly than ever. Simmons is not known for being particularly fan-friendly, unless, of course, you count the hoards of “fans” that he slept with, and/or those with enough money to burn to pay for a meet and greet.
TODAY’S MUSIC LANDSCAPE
The music landscape has changed overall, not just for rock music. Album sales are consistently declining for reasons that go well beyond the quality of the music (although there is a plethora of terrible music being released on a regular basis).
While the ability to download music and listen for free is definitely a contributing factor to declining album sales (particularly in rock), it is far from the only challenge that artists face nowadays as they try to build a musical career.
ECONOMY & GREED
The economy may have recovered for people like Simmons, who as undoubtedly has benefitted from a rising stock market, but the average person’s budget is tighter than ever. Salaries (in general) are still nowhere near where they were when they peaked before the dot-com bubble burst, and expenses have grown exponentially in recent years (cell phones, Internet, cable, utilities, food and gasoline, etc.).
Greed has also played a role in the decline of record sales. Record labels pushed people to their limits by raising prices on CDs to ridiculous levels (even though they were infinitely cheaper to produce than vinyl albums). The industry as a whole was slow to respond to file sharing, and when they did, they came out with outrageous pricing for downloads, and ticket prices have gone through the roof in recent years, as has the cost of band merchandise.
THE ENDURING STRENGTH OF ROCK
We will never get back to the way that things were in the heyday of rock, but make no mistake, the genre is very much alive and kicking. And though Simmons seems to think that rock is finally dead, what he doesn’t realize is that it is stronger than ever because of all of the subgenres. The more niche-oriented tastes of rock fans will make it nearly impossible to replicate the kind of success that bands like KISS had, but it also ensures that rock will live on long after Simmons is buried in one of his KISS caskets.
As the Publisher of Hard Rock Daddy, I am on the front lines talking to bands that are doing everything possible to make a living playing music. It is an uphill battle, but one that many bands have gladly chosen to face head-on.
Inspired by some recent interactions with up-and-coming hard rock bands, Hard Rock Daddy is going to be launching an ongoing series entitled “ROCK LIVES!” In this series, readers will be given the opportunity to go behind the scenes, and see what today’s rock bands are doing to build a fanbase and a career in music.
I would be remiss not to thank Gene Simmons for helping to galvanize the masses who want nothing more than to prove him wrong…so thank you Gene! The misguided views that you spew from your ivory tower are the perfect fertilizer to help rock music continue to grow and flourish.