Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gene Simmons Says College Kids Killed the Music Business

Gene Simmons (formerly of the band KISS) makes me laugh out loud.

In a recent interview, Simmons calls college students "crooks" and claims they have created a situation of "chaos and anarchy" where music artists can no longer earn an honest living.

[Point: Chris Cornell was in Allentown last Thursday. The show cost $32.50 and it was sold out. Let's see, 2000 people times $32.50 = $65,000. That's not a bad payday for a musician.]

But back to the Simmons article: Ironically, Simmons begins by commenting about how big KISS's marketing/merchandising empire is. He says "in the music world...nobody can shine our shoes [when it comes to peddling merchandise]". Obviously, he's making lots of money as a result of his time spent in the music industry. so, what's his beef?

Well, right after that, he launches into a tirade against college students, claiming that "Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth [by the RIAA for stealing music]."

But wait a minute. If you sue all those kids, who will buy KISS merchandise?

Most ironic of all, Simmons later claims that "The most important part is the music. Without that, why would you care?"

Huuuuhhh? Music? Was that the priority of KISS? So, like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon, KISS were all about the music. Riiiiiight.

That's not how I remember it. They were merchandising monsters from the outset, and, apparently, they are still cashing in.

Besides, hasn't Gene Simmons has made tons of money as the face of Mr. Counter-Culture? So what happened to Mr. Paint-Your-Face-and-Stick-Your-Tongue-Out-at-People-So-You-Can-Make-Money? What happened to the guy who encouraged you to give the finger to the man?

He's now saying that "fresh faced college kids" stole the music and ruined the industry. Apparently, he didn't mean for you to REALLy give the finger to the man. It was just a was just Simmons' schtick.

But speaking of stealing music, I thought KISS stole the music. Talk about a band where costumes and spectacle outranked good songwriting and you have KISS. Outside of one or two good songs, KISS pretty much sucked when it came to writing good music. They were comic book characters with guitars and stage antics. The music was secondary.

And, let me ask, who is he selling all of his junk to? Not me. I expect it's a bunch of kids who think KISS is cool because they own the KISS action figures. Geez...Mr. Music-Comes-First. What bullshit.

Ironic, isn't it? Today, the once-iconoclastic Gene Simmons sounds like an old fuddy-duddy: "Those young whipper-snappers...they ruined everything and they ought to be punished." What a dick.

You know, I can remember the day when oldsters said the same thing about Gene Simmons...



Sigmund Freud said...

Doktor D, I agree that Gene Simmons is probably a dick, but for different reasons. (For which I find obvious and will not discuss now).

However, as for people who ripped off music via napster, bittorrent, etc., it is hard to believe that they were not aware they were getting it for free.

Some people seem to feel justified in doing so because: (a) music companies lately are putting out such crap at such high prices that they themselves deserve to ripped off a little; (b) napster (and others) had such an enormous number of users at one point you could get anything (and I mean anything) that was reduced to digital and what record store outlet could possibly compete with it? Therefore users again felt justified in ripping it because that was the only place to get the unique stuff they wanted.

I doubt that anybody could have believed that the all-you-can-eat buffet was going to last forever. The real shame of it is that to this day nothing has come close to the sheer volume and variety that existed in the height of napster.

I recommend learning to play the banjo and amusing yourself, family and friends with your own creativity.

DrD said...


I've written extensively about the issue of music downloading.

My opinion is that downloading music is against international copyright law.

It is also wrong to take someone's intellectual art without permission.

However, the music industry made its bed, as they say, and now they have to lie in it.

The RIAA is made up of attorneys who have been ripping off music artists for decades, so it's not like artists were getting a fair shake and then the college kids came along and closed the Garden of Eden.

Not only have they ripped off artists, the RIAA has fought every technological innovtion that has come down the pike: they fought cassette tapes because they said people could record ablums (or the radio) for free.

But cassettes were a huge moneymaker for the music industry.

Then they fought CDs because the RIAA didn't want people making theor own CDs. But CD sales eclipsed cassette and albums.

Then they they fought Internet distribution. And rather than taking control of the distribution methods via the Internet, they came up with the brilliant (sarcstic) idea of suing their customers.

Idiots. They have succeded in alienating their customer base.

It took Steve Jobs from Apple to come along and show the music industry how to make money selling songs on the Internet.

So, the RIAA has had its head in the sand for years when it comes to distribution methods.

The final nail in the coffin was when the recording industry decided it could make money by putting one or two good songs on a CD and charging $20 for it.

People would buy the CD based on the one quality song they were playing on the radio. When they played the CD at home, they learned that they had been ripped off.

This pissed people off, bigtime.

So, I can see both sides to this. It is not right to steal the songs of an artist without permission. But the music industry has been practicing underhanded tactics for many, many years.

So, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the RIAA when the kids eventually rose up and said, "Fuck you. We're going to use existing technology to get our hands on music."

This whole deal gets into black magic, where the RIAA has exploited musical artists by not paying them enough and has turned around and exploited kids by charging them too much money for a shitty CD.

So, I do agree with Simmons on this point: it is now a situation of "chaos and anarchy" relating to music distribution, but that's not a bad thing.

Has the old school model changed? Absolutely, and that's what Simmons is crying about. However, all models change, and it's up to the people in the industry to change or the dinosaurs.

I guess that makes Simmons a dinosaur.

So, on a separate point, why do you think Gene Simmons is a dick?


Ralph said...

Simmons looks like a dinasaur, talks like a dinasaur...That's it I want an investigation. That tongue of his is awfully lizard-like.

Dr. D: Great points about the RIAA. Things just weren't working very well under the old music distribution mondel, so it took some rebels to come along to change them. Of course, "The Man" or those in power are always going to be resistent to change - unless they are truly visionary, ala Steve Jobs. Gene Simmons is obvioulsy no visionary - I guess most dinosaurs weren't either...

DrD said...

Exactly. You've summed up my points precisely.

Simmons made money within the structure of a certain business model, and now that that model has changed, he want to sue.

I guess that's easier than evolving.


Shimp said...

Yeah, Gene Simmons. What an A-hole...

There was a now-infamous interview that he sat for a couple years ago with Terry Gross of NPR's "Fresh Air." Gross was clearly blindsided by his shockingly -- especially for NPR -- aggressive attitude toward her to the point where she was just speechless.

The truly odd thing about it, too, was that I think Simmons thought he was being funny, but instead he was bombing. And because there was no audience, besides the interviewer, to react, he seemed to have no clue of the fact.

I think he had pre-judged the listening audience to be a bunch of wuss intellectuals -- 'cause, you know, it's NPR -- and so he was trying to impress them with his business acumen and that he, unlike many of them, no doubt, had achieved enviable success through the ruthless application of capitalist principles most of the audience would have queasiness about. Instead, he came off unintentionally sounding a lot more like a character from Spinal Tap.

You'd need to read the transcript to fully appreciate how bad it was (as it turns out, I saw where Gross had included the thing in a book issued a couple years ago of some of her most memorable interviews). It was one of those moments when as a listener you really had to take notice and say to yourself: I don't think I've ever heard anything quite like this.

What struck me most about the guy -- and ironically so since he's SO wealthy -- was just how angry he seems. And humorless.

Gross tried steering him in a different direction several times, but it was like BBs off a rhino. At one point she tried getting him to say something funny about those bizarrely outsized codpieces he and his bandmates used to -- perhaps still do -- wear. And he just wouldn't take the bait. You'd think he could say something funny about that, surely. Like that they had "ahmadillos in thier trousers," or something. But, no.

My question is: how can you have that much money and still be pissed off at the world?

Oddball Erie tie-in to this story...
I actually heard the interview while sitting in my car, stranded for several hours in one of those out-of-nowhere blizzards on I-79 just outside of Edinboro, on my way back to DC from visiting Mike Downing in MillCrick.

Sigmund Freud said...

Doktor D, Shrimp has pretty much stated why Gene Simmons is such a dickwad. I heard that interview as well. I wondered if Gene showed up at the interview all gussied up in full KISS regalia and then got pissed off when he realized that he was only going to be on radio. He also seems to take himself far too seriously for a man who made his millions dressing in drag.

DrD said...

From Wikipedia:

During a February 4, 2002 interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Gene Simmons said to Gross regarding his claim to have bedded more than a thousand women: "If you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs" (paraphrasing The Who's hit song "You Better, You Bet").

To this Gross replied, "That's a really obnoxious thing to say."

Prerry funny, huh?

How old is this guy?


Ralph said...

When you've slept with hundreds of women and generally lived the lifestyle that Gene Simmons has, I'm thinkin' it could do some odd things to your psyche.


DrD said...

Yeah, I was reading Simmons' bio and it said he was pretty severely neglected as a child.

Not suprising, really.

The lack of training and attention have left him filling the shoes of a 58-year-old adolescent, still focused inordinantly on money and sex.

They say Freud is outdated, but he was right about behavior being connected to childhood. He hit that nail right on the head.


Sigmund Freud said...

My other hobbies are horseback riding and scrapbooking.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you guys about Simmons: He's a complete ass who fronts the kind of band that takes the legitimacy out of rock music and a hypocrit for blaming music fans for the record industries losses.

On the other hand, I am worried about music. Sure people will still pay $$$ to see big-name acts in concert, but a lot of up-and -comers will be squeezed out of the market. A lot of the next generation of bands won't have the money and resources to develop the sound into great music. Plus record stores are closing left and right.

Of course the bottle might be half full. Now anyone with a band can bypass the record label system, let people hear the music on myspace, youtube, etc, and sell their own CDs, making them completely independent of record label pressures. I think we'll see fewer bands selling out because of this.

I guess I see both sides of this...