Gene-Simmons400 Gene Simmons’ son, Nick Simmons interviewed his father for Esquire Magazine. Portions of the interview appears below.

Nick Simmons: You once said the music business isn’t dying — it’s dead. What would you say to young musicians and songwriters today trying to navigate this new terrain?

Gene Simmons: 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.

I am so sad that the next 15-year-old kid in a garage someplace in Saint Paul, that plugs into his Marshall and wants to turn it up to ten, will not have anywhere near the same opportunity that I did. He will most likely, no matter what he does, fail miserably. There is no industry for that anymore. And who is the culprit? There’s always the changing tide of interests — music taste changes with each generation. To blame that is silly. That was always the exciting part, after all: “What’s next?” But there’s something else. 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.

Here’s a frightening thought: from 1958 to 1983, name 100 musical anythings that are iconic, that seem to last beyond their time.

NS: [How] does this bode for the industry of the future?

GS: There is no record industry, unfortunately. Not like there was. There are some terrific bands out there — Tame Impala, which you turned me on to, and so on. And during the ’60s and ’70s they would’ve become big, I’m convinced.

But, strangely, today, everything pales before Psy’s Gangnam Style. Look up the numbers on that song. He blows everyone else out of the water.

Read more at Esquire.


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  • Bill on

    I don’t see his point. “rock is dead” What is rock? What rock means to me – is alive and well.

    Bands that have been around for decades are still putting out quality content, either in their original bands or in new projects – Rush, Van Halen, Megadeth, Chickenfoot, Black Country Communion, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden.

    I’m still discovering (relatively) newer bands that are full of energy and quality (have released at least one really good album) – Iced Earth, Mogwai, Shadow Gallery, Midlake, Dawes, Trivium, Opeth, Winery Dogs,

    Gene Simmons is focused on the marketing and release and medium of “albums” – when nowadays, the band is rewarded NOT for the work they do in a studio (album sales), but by the ideas in their heads (copyright) and the work they do on a stage (touring).

    If you want to focus on bands that are simply past their prime and dying – Def Lep, Black Sabbath, and Kiss themselves – then, yes, that limited view is going to suggest “rock is dead”.

    • bobbyd on

      bill just a quick reply,
      i don’t disagree with your comment but,
      the bands you mentioned might be putting out great music that you like , but it is not widely available to the hard rock and metal fan -no one really buys cd’s anymore that is the hard truth – and the bands barely make a dime off of their hard work, you can find them of course on Youtube and listen for free- and most people will download a song or 2 , from bands they love-not much money there either – if any of these bands have a label that gave them any kind of budget to record, they have to pay that back to the label- or pay out of pocket to record themselves – rock is not dead when it comes to touring, that is the only way any of these bands or for that matter any new/mid -level bands{ from rock to country }can really earn an income – so they have to tour like crazy – and many hard rock/ metal shows have been hit or miss lately as far as audience turnout – superstar bands with hits under their belt seem to be doing ok , but bands like you mentioned are really in trouble – for every Judas priest , their are 50 new/mid- level bands like Opeth ,Shadow Gallery,etc, really solid bands with no mainstream access- i would bet you make more money per year at your job than any of the guys individually make in the bands you mentioned with the exception of the winery dogs { they are all superstars at their instrument and have huge name recognition} thats why i agree with simmons on this one-

    • Bill on

      good point Bobby d, I don’t disagree. As for my income, you are probably right although I suspect Mikael Akerfeldt and makes a pretty damn good living.

  • Nick on

    If rock radio would change its pathetic format then it get somewhere.

  • Marmot on

    I just hope whatever’s on Gene’s head is dead!

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