Leaders, Music

1-yr Later, Gene Simmons was right: Rock is Dead

 (Photo by Daniel Knighton/WireImage)

(Photo by Daniel Knighton/WireImage)

It was just over 1 year ago that Nick Simmons, son of KISS co-founder & frontman Gene Simmons, published an interview in Esquire that he did with his father entitled: Gene Simmons “Rock is Finally Dead”.

It was a great article. In it, Nick interviews his father and asks some great questions about Gene’s views on the state of the Rock business. Gene was very direct and as always backed up his statements with facts and figures. As the title suggests, the article focused on the fact Gene believes that Rock is dead. What sets this article apart is that Gene explained in detail exactly why he believed rock was dead. He did such a great job of explaining his case, which is based on pure facts, that if he were in a court of law he could have ended with “I rest my case” and the ruling would have been a slam dunk in his favor.

The article got a lot of people talking which revealed numerous interesting behaviors of the human psyche. Two of the most intriguing displays to me were 1) the way so many seemed to read only the title and consequently based their views on incomplete information and 2) the way many more justified their own “stealing” of music. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all to me was just how many people didn’t seem to understand the very basic economic principles that proved Gene’s case. In retrospect, it’s probably due to a blatant disregard coupled with a likely sense of entitlement.

Gene said in the article “The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing…”. I believe it’s actually more sinister than that – I think people just don’t care. For some, it’s easy to steel and if they don’t get caught there are no consequences (at least in their own minds). Justification for criminalization.

Gene went on to say that “Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered”. He couldn’t have been any more correct. Case and point: when I was a teenager and wanted to get a new album, I had to go to the record store, thumb through a bunch of albums, pick out my selection, pay for it, then take it home and power up the record player to listen to it. It was a commitment and therefore I only did it when I truly wanted the music. It was an investment in both my time and money. Today, anyone with a computer can easily find the music of their choice and with one click have it downloaded onto their phone. No money, no time, no hassle. That is murder, plain and simple.

To those who think Gene is wrong about his remarks, I would suggest you take a step back and look at the big picture. He never said there were no longer fans of rock, nor did he say there were no longer kids in garages playing their hearts out hoping to one day make it big & nor did he say no one was even recording rock anymore. It’s the business of rock that is dead. Business – that key component that ultimately allows artists to make it their full-time jobs to entertain the public. The entire ecosystem that maintained rock as a viable business entity is without a doubt dead and was murdered by some of the very people that have the arrogance to call themselves fans.

When I acquire music (which I always proudly pay for), I am telling the artists that I believe in & appreciate their work. I recognize they, and everyone involved, worked long and hard to go from a riff in their head to an entire beautifully performed, engineered, mixed, produced and mastered work of art.

In my opinion, not a single person who acquires music illegally has the right to call themselves a fan. A fan recognizes the work an artist has put into a project and would only legitimately acquire their music. THAT is the core of what makes someone a true fan. Fair and honest: the band invests their time in the work and the fan invests their money in the product. If you acquire the music illegally, your are a thief. That is simply a fact.

I understand the economic principle that acquiring something for free is financially better than acquiring it for money. But there is a moral component, a human component that comes into play in the music business. Musicians create a product purely out of emotion – that emotion is as moral and human as anything can be. If they can’t get paid for their work, they can’t continue to do their work. No money, no honey.

If you believe you have the right to acquire music without paying for it, you should tell your employer you would like to reduce your salary to zero and while your at it you should also start adding in lots of overtime. In essence, that is exactly what you are asking your favorite artists to do (and you call yourself a fan).

If you now feel like shit for being such an asshole, good. You deserve it. You are an accessory to murder.

—John J. Simpson

twitter: @johnjsimpson