In a recent interview for Esquire magazine, conducted by his son, Gene Simmons said Rock n’ Roll was dead. He goes on to say, “The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered.”
So, who, in Gene’s opinion, killed Rock n Roll?
You and me. The file-sharing generation.
“My sense is that file sharing started in predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle-class young people who were native-born,” says Gene. “Who felt they were entitled to have something for free, because that’s what they were used to. If you believe in capitalism — and I’m a firm believer in free-market capitalism — then that other model is chaos. It destroys the structure.”
But don’t think the blame solely rests on our shoulders. Oh, no. Gene believes that fault for rock’s untimely demise also rests with all the new bands who don’t write songs the way they used to.
“The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us,” Simmons said. “What is the next Dark Side of the Moon? Now that the record industry barely exists, they wouldn’t have a chance to make something like that. There is a reason that, along with the usual top-40 juggernauts, some of the biggest touring bands are half old people, like me.”
This makes me very grumpy.
If you’re a fan of any band who produced any amazing album after 1983 (which is every album produced since my birth), you are going to have a serious issue with what Gene has said.
Probably no one should care that much about Gene Simmons’ opinion. After all, it might only be another few years before people start saying, “Gene who?” Let’s leave aside for a moment the hilarious irony of Gene Simmons – a man who deliberately homogenized his sound to make more money – talking about the craft of songwriting, and take a look at his argument.
First of all, why are we still talking about file sharing? File sharing is a thing. It happens. It has been happening since the 90s. There is nothing new to say about it. Before file sharing, fans would tape copies of their albums for friends, or bootleg concerts, or trade tapes. It’s always happened, because people who love music have an insatiable appetite for it, an appetite that usually stretches beyond their means to support it. Whether it’s right or wrong isn’t important; what’s important is that it happens, you can’t stop it happening, so as a musician, you have to figure out its role within your life.
File sharing enables bands without huge advertising budgets and record company support (*cough KISS cough*) to have their music heard by people all across the world, often by people who would not otherwise be able to afford to buy a CD. File sharing allows music to go viral on a scale previously unknown. File sharing enables bands to find fans all over the world without huge, expensive tours that are bad for the environment, bad for the finances, and often bad for the band themselves.
And I’m not just saying this because I like to listen to music for free. I’m a writer. My digital book files are pirated, too. If you want to read my books, but don’t want to pay me $2.99 or $3.99 for them, you can find the files on book piracy sites. Personally, I’d rather have a new fan for life than $3 right now. That fan may go on to recommend my books to twenty other people, who might buy them, or tell another twenty people each, or pay for a ticket to come see me at a convention, or buy a paperback or a fancy hardcover for $50 just to have a copy on the shelf, or convince their local bookshop to stock me, or tell their Dad, who happens to be a big-shot Hollywood producer, to turn The Sunken into a feature film, or send me an expensive bottle of wine for a Christmas present. This is a long-tail game.
Gene is basically calling out white, middle-class kids for robbing him of his retirement fund. He sounds bitter. He sounds like he’s mad at the music industry because his tastes haven’t evolved and he has no new method for promoting his band, who have no new ideas and nothing new to contribute to music. He personally can’t see any merit an anything new he’s heard since 1983, so obviously nothing is good any more. Is he actively out supporting new musicians? Or is he buying football teams for reality TV and playing in front of crowds of fans who only want to hear songs he wrote 30 years ago?
He is Grandpa Simpson.
How dare he go around telling people that rock is dead, that music created today is never going to live up to what came before. Seriously, how dare he? how dare he in a single sentence completely negate the value of hundreds of thousands of hardworking, talented, dedicated musicians and their fans across the world?
Unlike Mr. Simmons, not every musician equates artistic merit with the amount of money in the bank. Not every musician assumes that because it’s hard to make a living at this, never mind enough money to snort coke from the belly-buttons of high-end prostitutes in the cock-pit of your private jet, that the reason for making music is gone.
Music has never died, and it will never die. The value and message of certain musicians will change over the years, and what once might have been relevant to one person might no longer be relevant. You might’ve liked Kiss once as a pimply-faced teen, and now they’re kind of sad, especially with Ace gone, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a whole world of wonderful, bright now bands and songwriters out there, just waiting to be discovered.
Go out and discover them.
And if you’re a musician, never lose heart, and never post stupid rants about the state of the industry on the internet. It just makes you look like a jealous whiny-faced asshat. Just do what you do best; create something remarkable, and fin the audience for it. Repeat. Don’t give up.
In other news, my new novel is NOW AVAILABLE AS A PAPERBACK! You can buy The Sunken (Engine Ward) (Volume 1) from Amazon today!
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