GENE SIMMONS: 'The Record Industry Is Dead For New Artists'

October 25, 2020

The Larry King YouTube channel has uploaded the full 26-minute interview with KISS bassist Gene Simmons conducted by guest host Dennis Miller in the fall of 2019. During the chat, Simmons discussed his long career with KISS and why "End Of The Road" is the last tour the band will do together.

Speaking about the state of the rock scene and the impact of digital streaming services on the music industry, Gene said (see video below): "I've said this 10 years ago, when streaming and downloading and all that stuff was for free. RADIOHEAD, it bears noting, tried to do a brand new record and said to their fans, 'Pay whatever you will.' It's interesting to note it hasn't been done since, 'cause it doesn't work. If you leave the doors open in a supermarket and say, 'Pay whatever you want,' people will just go ahead and pay nothing. But it doesn't work, because people would rather get stuff for free.

"My heart goes out to new bands," he continued. "There's so much good talent out there that will never get a chance. Right now in the zeitgeist, they think, 'Okay, music industry. I get on 'X Factor' or 'The Voice' and I sing, and then I have a career. They have no idea what it means. The other thing is that record companies simply cannot make money.

"My daughter, Sophie, is a hugeSpotify writer, singer and all that. She's written for Rick Ross and Yellow Claw and all these kinds of [artists]. She's got tons of songs that have been downloaded millions and millions of times. You can download something 10 million times and make a few hundred bucks.

"The record industry is dead for new artists," Gene added. "Rock is dead. The last great rock band was the FOO FIGHTERS, and that's 20 years ago. You can't name another rock band, because you can't make a living.

"When I first started in '73, there was still a record industry, and the record company, which we used to talk badly about, was the best friend you ever had — they gave you millions of dollars and tour support and all that, and they only took money back from the records you sold. So you sold records, and then people showed up and got all that live money and the licensing and the merchandising.

"Until legislators become well educated and understand the nature of the business, they're unqualified to talk about copyrights or the record industry."

This is not the first time Gene has painted a bleak picture of the state of rock music. Back in 2014, he told Esquire magazine that "rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. 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."

A number of hard rock and heavy metal musicians have weighed in on the topic in a variety of interviews over the last several years, with some digging a little deeper into Simmons's full remarks and others just glossing over the headline.

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