Gene Simmons Says Rock Is Dead And Music Piracy Is The Culprit

Gene Simmons has once again taken aim at music piracy, this time going so far as to say “rock is dead” because of it. In an interview in Esquire Magazine with his son Nick Simmons, the Kiss bassist decided that the time was right to signal the end of rock and roll. Nothing about any of that rings false, right? From Esquire:

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.

There’s just something about reading the words, “when I was coming up,” that just screams that the person is out of touch. When it comes to the music industry, that is deadly unless you’re in a band that can ride a nostalgia train all the way to the bank. I mean not everyone can get exclusive deals with Wal-Mart or fund an arena football league with a crappy reality TV tie-in. But let’s hold onto that, Gene has more to say:

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.

It’s very sad for new bands. My heart goes out to them. They just don’t have a chance. If you play guitar, it’s almost impossible. You’re better off not even learning how to play guitar or write songs, and just singing in the shower and auditioning for The X Factor. And I’m not slamming The X Factor, or pop singers. But where’s the next Bob Dylan? Where’s the next Beatles? Where are the songwriters? Where are the creators? Many of them now have to work behind the scenes, to prop up pop acts and write their stuff for them.

You heard it, don’t even bother making music. The Internet has killed it. In a world where Pandora, Spotify, and other services seem to rule the roost, not to mention there’s more access to music than ever before, the Internet is the main reason for the decline in rock music.

Now we can’t deny the effect that piracy had on the way that music was created before, there’s evidence there. But to say that music is dead or there are no creative songwriters at this moment is insane. Not to mention this classic slice of Simmons logic:

GS: Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the numerous classic Motown artists, Madonna, U2, Prince, Pink Floyd… The list goes on. Individuals, all unanimously considered classic, timeless, revolutionary. Now from ’84 until today, name some. Just give me a few — artists that, even after their passing, are or will be inescapable. Artists on the same level as the ones I just mentioned. Even if you don’t like them, they will be impossible to avoid, or deny, even after they’ve stopped making music and maybe passed on. In fact, they become bigger when they stop. Name artists that even compare with the ones I just named.

NS: Nirvana?

GS: Nirvana. That’s about it. They are the notable exception. Keep thinking. It’s harder, isn’t it, to name artists with as much confidence? The pickings are so slim, and it’s not an arbitrary difference. There was a 10- to 15-year period in the ’60s and ’70s that gave birth to almost every artist we now call “iconic,” or “classic.”

Now look past the fact that this is probably one of the more disingenuous exchanges since Troy McClure sold you The Juice Loosener. I’m sure you all can name quite a few artists that have made an impact aside from Nirvana.

To say that there are no artists that have had a lasting effect in the last 30 years is just silly. I don’t even believe it is proper to cite the 60s and 70s on equal footing with more modern music given the wide amount of choice and the expansion into newer genres.

This isn’t a new argument from the Simmons camp, it isn’t even the most boneheaded thing he’s said in the past few months. What it does prove is that it is a lot easier to hate on modern music than it is to try and embrace it. Gene Simmons is a smart guy and I think Kiss has a prominent place in rock history. I just think he needs to get his head out of his ass at times and realize that technology is a driving force behind changes in all industries. Maybe he’ll do it between whoring the Kiss name out to any number of crappy products and producing awful reality television.

(Via Esquire / NME)