KISS bassist Gene Simmons is an outspoken, opinionated millionaire who more often than not can seem out of touch with any semblance of reality. Yet in an interview in Esquire that he did with his son Nick, he brings up some valid points about the strength of rock music. The headline that’s been widely reported is that “rock is finally dead,” which is a refrain that’s been heard over and over again in the context of music. This time, in print, Simmons claims that file sharing is what killed it:
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.
Simmons goes on to say that Nirvana is the only artist since 1984 that’s iconic, and that there’s no record industry like there was. Given the decline of record sales due to file sharing, there’s a shred of truth to that. However, what he neglects to mention is that streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Beats are paying artists, if maybe slower than the glory days of the CD explosion of the ’80s and ’90s, and will pick up as more people sign up. Also, countless bands that might not fit in with Simmons’ narrow definition of “rock” are doing fine for themselves. And Foo Fighters, who have managed to make a career for themselves despite being a band that came out after 1984, posted a response on their Facebook page that read merely “Not so far, Mr. God of Thunder…” So is rock dead, or is Simmons just out of touch once again?