KISS’s Gene Simmons recently sat down with his own son, Nick, for an interview featured on Esquire.com. When asked what advice he’d have for today’s musicians and songwriters, Gene said, “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…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.
I am so sad that the next 15-year-old kid in a garage…will not have anywhere near the same opportunity that I did. He will most likely, no matter what he does, fail miserably…And who is the culprit? 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…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…It’s very sad for new bands. My heart goes out to them. They just don’t have a chance.”
Rock is dead? Not a chance, responds Dee Snider. Dee fired off a response to Gene’s Esquire diatribe, saying, “Recently, my esteemed colleague, Gene Simmons of Kiss declared that “Rock ‘n’ Roll is finally dead”. Really?
While I have nothing but respect for Gene, he couldn’t be further off the mark. Yes, the rock ‘n’ roll “business model” that helped KISS (and my band for that matter) achieve fame and fortune is most certainly long dead and buried, but rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well and thriving on social media, in the streets, and in clubs and concert halls all over the world. And the bands playing it are more genuine and heartfelt than ever because they are in it for one reason: the love of rock ‘n’ roll.
Spend some time seeing and listening to these incredible young bands and their rabid fans and you will know that rock ‘n’ roll couldn’t be more alive. Yes, it’s not the same as it was for the first 50 years of rock’s existence, but the fire definitely still burns.
And it wasn’t some 15 year old kid in Saint Paul, Minnesota (to paraphrase Mr. Simmons) who killed the rock ‘n’ roll goose that laid the platinum egg…it was greedy, big city, record company moguls who made their own velvet noose to hang themselves with. It was they who took advantage of the consumer (and the artist for that matter) and drove them to use an alternative source of music presented to them.
For example, take the bill of goods the record industry sold the mainstream public when introducing the CD format. “We have to charge more for it, because it’s a new technology and there’s a cost to setting up the infrastructure to produce them.” The consumer believed them–it made sense–so they paid a $18.98 list price for a product they had been paying $7.99 list for previously. After all “you can’t break a CD with a hammer!” (Remember that?)
But when the infrastructure was in place and paid for in full, and the cost of producing a CD dropped to less than a dollar, did the record companies roll back the list price in kind? Not on your life. They weren’t about to do the right thing and cut their increased revenue stream. Those fat cats were enjoying their ill-gotten gains way too much.
So when the general public finally realized they were being had, and the opportunity arose for them to stick it to the man, what did they do? The same thing their Woodstock Nation, baby boomer parents had done when they had their chance…they stuck it and they stuck it good. Does anyone remember Abbey Hoffman’s “Steal this Book”, the massive selling, early 70’s hippy guide “focused on ways to fight the government, and against corporations in any way possible.” Multiply that by a googolplex.
Is it hard to make it rock ‘n’ roll? You bet. Always was, always will be. Will rockers make as much money as they did “back in the day”? Probably not. But that won’t stop them, and they’ll be motivated by a much more genuine love of the art, and great rock will continue to be produced, played and embraced by rock fans.
So in conclusion: Record company executives killed the old rock ‘n’ roll business model…and Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Dead!
Dee Snider/ September 10th, 2014