KISS bassist Gene Simmons has little doubt that there are plenty of exciting young rock bands today worthy of mass attention, but most of those artists won't get the chance because the industry that could facilitate their breakthrough isn't what it used to be.
"[It's dead] in all ways. And the culprits are the young fans. You killed the thing that you love," he said. "Because as soon as streaming came in, you took away a chance for the new great bands who are there in the shadows, who can't quit their day job 'cause you can't make a dime putting your music out there, because when you download stuff, it's one-hundredth or one-thousandth of one penny [in royalties]. Ans so you've gotta have millions...and even billions of downloads before you can make a few grand."
He continued, suggesting that the "next Beatles" could be out there somewhere, but even a group that good "is never gonna get the chance that [Kiss] did. We had record companies that gave us millions of dollars so we can make records and tour, and not worry about a nine-to-five [job]. Because when you're worried about nine-to-five, you don't have the time to sit there and devote to your art, whatever that is."
Simmons underscored his point, tracing the lineage of rock's biggest acts, more or less chronologically — Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and others. Then there was David Bowie, Prince, U2, AC/DC, Van Halen, Metallica and then a steep drop-off in the late-'80s and '90s with fewer big bands breaking through.
By the turn of the century, Simmons says there were precious few new rock bands coming out.
"That's around the time when Napster and al that stuff started," he said. "The fox goes in and steals that first egg from the chicken coop, and when the fox isn't killed, all the other foxes say, 'Hey, we can get eggs for free.' Before you know it, the farmer's out of business, and there are no more eggs in the grocery stores. The grocery store goes out of business, the trucks that deliver the chickens and the eggs go out of business, just 'cause you didn't kill that first fox that came in to steal the eggs."
While there seems to be plenty of money in the classic rock realm, newer artists are often out of luck when it comes to making a living. This has never been more evident than during a pandemic, which robbed many musicians of most of their income.
A 2020 survey of musicians in the U.K. released this summer found that 64 percent of professional musicians were considering pivoting to new careers after losing an average of $15,000 in income due to the pandemic-related shutdowns.
And Simmons isn't the only major rock artist to speak out on behalf the next generation.
Watch the full interview with Simmons via the player at the top of this page!
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