June 22 2008

Why Do Old Rockers Insist On Being Sticks In The Mud?

gene simmonsWhy is it that older bands such as Kiss and Metallica can’t accept that the record industry is changing to finally favor the fans?

In a recent interview with AOL, Gene Simmons had some strong words for the fans of music.

“The record industry is dead. It’s six feet underground and unfortunately the fans have done this. They’ve decided to download and file share. There is no record industry around so we’re going to wait until everybody settles down and becomes civilised. As soon as the record industry pops its head up we’ll record new material.”

Considering that Kiss has not released an album of new material in over nine years, somehow I highly doubt this has anything to do with the state of fans downloading music.  Sure does make a convenient excuse though for a drying up band, doesn’t it?

There was no direct quote for his feelings on Radiohead’s decision to release In Rainbows in a method that allowed fans to name their own price, but that is where my real bone of contention is with Mr. Simmons.  According to the above linked article, he said that this move by Radiohead was contributing to the demise of the record industry, and that his band (should they ever happen to record again – ed) would never follow suit.

I feel the correct wording of this would have been, “they are contributing to the demise of the recording industry as it once was.”  This would have been more spot on, and also less obvious of someone who has tied to the status quo.  All things in the world must grow and evolve, and it is time for the recording industry and artists to accept this.

Isn’t it interesting that the biggest detractors of the industry changing are acts such as Kiss and Metallica?   Bands that have sold tens of millions of albums?  Of course they don’t want it to change, they were able to play the system to their advantage, but what about the thousands of bands and artists that don’t have that luxury?  The bands that are getting no promotion from their labels, that still travel from gig to gig in a beat up van, lugging their own equipment around instead of an army of roadies?

Bands such as these two were once those guys, but they came in to the industry when there were less acts, and it was easier to get promotion.  There are far more acts out there nowadays, and they aren’t getting backing from their labels unless they get a huge hit, so it is up to them to promote themselves as best they can.   Yes, bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are successes, and they have followed this model because they see the writing on the wall.  They can either embrace the fans in the place they are most comfortable, or they can hold on to the outdated, broken method of recording and distribution and earn nothing as they do truly turn to piracy.

radiohead thomWhat these bands has done is tell their fans they understand them and their desires, and under the current recording contracts, they truly aren’t losing much by giving their albums away because they are making up for it in goodwill.  These people will feel warmer feelings towards their favorite band, new fans will be introduced because they can try their musif for free in by a legal means, and really diehard fans wills till purchase the eventual commerical releases or the special gift packs they come out with.

Sure this new method of distribution may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but with constantly declining album sales, it is obvious the old one isn’t right for anyone.  Instead of complaining about what other bands have done to “destroy” the industry, why don’t you try to find some compromise that resides between the old and the new?  Discounted CDs if purchased online?  Exclusive bonus track(s) if purchased online? Day-and-date release of material online and in retail stores, but online is sold at a significant discount due to reduced costs of production?  There are ways to have your cake and eat it to with what is going on, but apparently Mr. Simmons is just too short sighted to see it, as are most of the old guard musicians.

Is piracy good?  At it’s heart, no, but it is necessitating a change in the industry, and one that was badly needed.  People such as Gene Simmons wouldn’t have their enermous mansions and toys without the fans who supported them for years, now that is the landscape is changing, these older bands don’t want to embrace the change.  The answer is simple: evolve or die.  In the case of Kiss, I think this has already happened, someone just forgot to tell them.  (Seriously… no new album for nine years because you want to punish the music industry for changing?  Riiiiiiiiiiight… I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya if you believe that one.)

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