Remember the old adage that “rock and roll will never die”? The music genre has lived since the 1950s and seemingly would go on forever with raucous acts from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to the Rolling Stone to Metallica. It’s spawned new sub-genres of music including punk, pop, and grunge. However, KISS co-founder Gene Simmons declared rock and roll dead in an interview released Thursday. Not only is it dead, but it was murdered by file-sharing.
Simmons was interviewed by his own son, Nick, for an article with Esquire about the past, present, and future of rock music and record industry. The senior and always outspoken Gene sees a bleak future for young, up and coming artists.
“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.”
The death came not at the hands of changing tastes, according to Simmons, but because of the ease through which music listeners can obtain music without ever paying for it. The music industry has battled illegal file sharing since the late 90s through backwards technological attempts to prevent music from being copied off CDs, lawsuits aimed at file sharers, and legislation targeting file sharing. Some have worked, most have either not worked or resulted in an embarrassing mea culpa for a record company.
The transition to digital purchases through marketplaces like iTunes and streaming services like Spotify hasn’t appeared to fix the problem though in Simmons’ eyes.
“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.”
Gene also noted a lack of staying power of bands since the late 90s, and pointed to bands from the 60s and 70s whose music and tours are still popular today. In its place, Simmons described a system full of chaos where artists that can stand the test of time “are so rare as to be nonexistent.”
Has rock and roll truly died or is Gene Simmons just being too harsh on the future of music due to the rapid distribution changes of the past two decades? If nothing else, there’s always this BuzzFeed GIF-filled article on why rock and roll will never die to keep your hopes up.
[Images via Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports, Buzzfeed]