Here’s Why Gene Simmons’ Claims About Rock Being Dead Are Dead Wrong
Here we go... again! KISS' Gene Simmons has dug his 7-inch platform heels into the dirt some more and reiterated to Metal Hammer in a new interview that rock is dead because the fans killed it. It's been almost a decade of slagging off rock's success, mistaking it for dead, and enough is enough — let's debunk Simmons' ridiculous and outdated theories.
"I stand by my words: rock is dead,” Simmons told the long-running heavy metal outlet and again assigned blame to the fans.
"The people that killed it are fans. Fans killed the thing they loved by downloading and file sharing for free. How do you expect somebody who loves the guitar to come into this creative process? You’ve got to invent yourself. And so rock is dead," the KISS bassist and co-vocalist expressed.
Why That Claim Is Bogus
Simmons gave this interview in advance of a headlining appearance at the Download Festival in the U.K. in June, where over 100,000 FANS are expected to show up to watch... who? A bunch of rock and metal bands, that's who.
And if they're not buying music the way they used to (20-plus years ago — is anything the same as it was 20 years ago?), then the only realistic way for an artist to generate serious revenue would be through live performance.
The fans are the reason rock is still thriving as numerous stadium tours have launched in recent years, something that felt unimaginable since Simmons first proclaimed that rock was dead eight years ago. Fans are even shelling out exorbitant amounts of cash for one concert ticket now as Live Nation comes under increasing scrutiny for unsavory business practices that have essentially held fans financially hostage, forced to pay upwards of $1,000 for a single concert ticket or left with the option of staying home.
DISCLAIMER: Later in the interview, Simmons did acknowledge the importance of buying a concert ticket in order to help artists and their road crew members survive and feed their families. He immediately followed it up by again targeting fans for killing rock, however.
Also, music fans shifted away from illegal music downloading quite a long time ago and that has mostly transitioned toward on-demand services, such as YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Prime Music, Bandcamp... you get the point. Music is available at subscription rates in countless places, though it is worth acknowledging the royalty rates artists are paid for streams are quite piddly.
Sure, pirating music cratered album sales, but what is often left out of this discussion is that CD prices had soared to absurdly greedy totals of nearly $20 per album in the early 2000s.
Complaining about illegal music downloading in 2022 is excruciatingly outdated and, if anything, signals that Simmons has simply failed to adapt to changes in the industry or just stubbornly refuses to. It's a tad befuddling because KISS, musically, always made sure to keep up with the times. That's how we got a hit disco song in 1979, after all. Even the return-to-their-roots sound of late career albums were perfectly in line with trends for bands who were in similar stages of their careers.
For such savvy businessmen, why haven't KISS been able to weaponize the modern music climate for maximum benefit? Sure, blame it on the fans, that's the easy way out...
Back to Gene Simmons for More...
"Point to a new look. I played this game before and it bears noting, rock continues to be dead. From 1958 until 1988, 30 years, right? You got Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and on and on. Motown. You have the surf thing and the Beach Boys, the British invasion – hundreds of bands. The Hollies are hardly ever talked about, they're a great band. Disco stuff, Madonna, Prince, [David] Bowie, all that great stuff. You had the heavy bands Metallica and Iron Maiden, all that stuff in those 30 years. Eternal music and bands," Simmons went on.
Again, remaining wholly ignorant of the last three decades of successful rock music and operating under the false presumption that rock music had a finite end in the late '80s, he explained, "But from 1988 until today, who is the new Beatles? BTS? There's no denying BTS are world famous. But am I going to form a garage band to do those songs? No. I think they're well-crafted and professional, but One Direction and NSYNC and all the boy bands don’t change the world. It just makes little girls hearts flutter and then they're gone. That doesn't have gravitas. Influential bands, that make somebody want to pick up a guitar, learn how to play songs and be in a band don't exist, because you can't make a living."
Why That Claim Is Also Bogus
Acting like the only good music that ever existed only came from the era when you were young might be the stupidest argument in rock and metal.
Soungarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Tool, Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Disturbed, Nickelback, Linkin Park and, as of more recently, Ghost and Machine Gun Kelly have all risen to superstar levels of success in rock music, each having a tremendous impact and influence on new artists. Not everything has to sound like "Hoochie Coochie Man" to be influential, Gene.
Many of these bands have enjoyed massive Billboard 200 chart success over the last couple of years as well, which proves that rock still harnesses the power to dominate the charts. Rock bands may not have a gold album within a week anymore, but if you're in the Top 5 or even No. 1, it means you are among the best of everyone out there. What more do you need? Hell, the Chili Peppers notched nearly 100,000 album equivalent sales in the first week after the release of their new Unlimited Love album to claim the top spot on the Billboard 200.
After demanding that bands "invent themselves," it's a contradictory and foolish thing to then ask where the next Beatles are. There will never be another Beatles and that is fine — we all need to stop living with the expectation of having another Beatles or another Metallica or another Led Zeppelin. It's all rearview mirror ambitions and the refusal to recognize that this music can move forward and change and evolve is part of what's "killing" rock in comparison to other genres who don't shun new artists in favor of hearing "Rock and Roll All Nite" for the 8,000th time.
The Beatles arose during a time where there wasn't a rich history of recorded music to draw from and recording technology was still in a developmental state. That band broke ground by using new recording techniques and the same sentiment can be held for artists today who have become adept at home recording through the use of plug-ins and patches.
Artists should also drop the entitled expectation that making music is supposed to be an absurdly lucrative career. Perhaps those so-called golden decades of being in a band were the exception and not the rule. Anyone who was fortunate enough to catch that wave should be grateful it ever happened at all instead of being sour that it's not the standard anymore.
Simmons' arrogant refusal to accept just how well quite a lot of things are going for rock artists today is maybe indicative that his own brand of rock 'n' roll has seen better days, and not that rock on the whole is dead.
A great deal of rock's elders are doing just fine with album sales and chart success, so why hasn't the supposed "hottest band in the world" put out a new album since 2012?
Put up or shut up.