What Other Legacy Bands Can Learn from KISS
Generally speaking, I find KISS’ Paul Stanley’s intelligence level to be somewhere in-between that of a homeschooled redneck and the moss that grows on a rock, but during a recent interview, he actually said something insanely intelligent:
“I feel [KISS] can move forward without new music… it doesn’t feel utterly necessary to make a new album.”
AMEN HALLELUJAH PREACH IT GRANDMA!!!
Here’s the thing: although bands that spend many years apart before reuniting have a good track record with regards to making new music (see: Alice in Chains, Faith No More, Carcass, etc.), bands that stay together for years and years and years without such a break-up/hiatus/whatever do not (see: Metallica, Mötley Crüe, and, uh, well, KISS). Makes sense: Jerry Cantrell had a decade to write Black Gives Way to Blue, but Metallica are so sick of one another’s stupid faces that they actually made a documentary about overcoming their sickness of one another’s stupid faces.
So those bands that never break up and just keep making squillions and squillions of dollars become legacy bands. People will always go to see them perform their hits. And people will always go to the bathroom when they play their new material. It’s not quite fair to call them “irrelevant,” because, like I said, people will stay pay good money to watch them perform — but they’re not really relevant, either.
So why do these bands continue to release new albums if they can’t make decent new music? The answer, duh, is that it’s an excuse to tour. Which is fair enough…
…except that the “excuse” bit is outdated.
See, in olden times, your best bet of letting a large audience know about your tour was to be on magazine covers and MTV and the radio. And your best bet of getting on magazine covers and MTV and the radio was to have new material, because a) the label wasn’t gonna sink marketing dollars into your band for no reason, and b) the media couldn’t (and can’t) just keep running the same story/video/song over and over and over again because then people will buy a different magazine/change the station.
But today, bands of a certain size really don’t need the media to spread the word about anything they’re doing! There are e-mail lists and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and Instagram accounts and Vine clips and Reddit AMAs and Periscope videos. So, sure, if you’re a young band just starting out, you need the media to help spread the word, but if you’re Trent Reznor, you just need your assistant to send out a link to your eight-trillion social media followers. Boom. You might not make many new fans, but your target audience will hear the message loud and clear (and speaking of new fans: there will always be “cool” older kids to pass down copies of Rust in Peace to younger siblings). And there ya go: tickets to concerts sold. Merch moved. Money made.
So why should KISS, or any band like them, make a lackluster new album? We’ve spoken a lot on MS about bands hurting their legacies, but really — wouldn’t it be so much easier to accept Lars Ulrich’s horrible drumming and Vince Neil’s shitty singing and Ozzy Osbourne’s general decrepitude if they weren’t constantly putting out crap (let alone putting out crap and calling it caviar)? Does Dave Mustaine really, truly want Supercollider to be fans’ most recent memory of his work? So isn’t it time everyone takes a cue from Stanley and just stay as far the fuck away from a recording studio as possible?