Gene Simmons Thinks Napster Launched in 1988
Gene Simmons has his finger on the pulse. And to prove it, he’s been going around proclaiming that “rock is dead” for a sufficient amount of time that he has now effectively disproven his own argument.
At least the Kiss CEO’s most recent attempt to prove his position is entertaining.
Because “rock is dead” is kind of a vague sentiment (Does he mean in terms of existence? Record sales? Cultural relevance? Creativity? Is he just referring to his Pet Rock — and if so, can rocks scientifically or philosophically be considered “alive” or “dead”?), Q.1043 asked Simmons what, precisely, he means. To which Simmons responded that rock is dead “in all ways.”
He then elaborated:
“And the culprits are the young fans. You killed the thing that you love. 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. And so you’ve gotta have millions to millions, and even billions of downloads before you can make a few grand. And the fans have killed that thing. So the business is dead. And that means that the next Beatles or the next whoever is never gonna get the chance that we 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.”
I’ve heard people make this argument about the importance of artists being able to make enough money to create art full-time before, and I get it, to a degree. It certainly makes sense in terms of genuine “working class” bands — by which I mean bands that can afford to make music for a living but are by no means rich (although as a counter-argument, I would point to bands that either can’t or won’t make music full-time but still manage to be great… e.g. Cloudkicker, 95% of all death metal bands, any grindcore band that isn’t Napalm Death, etc.).
But Simmons isn’t even talking about those bands — he’s talking about megastars.
But surely megastars could still do their work for a much smaller salary, right? Like, nobody really thinks that the quality of Ghost’s work has been hurt because Tobias Forge can afford a nice house but not a mansion, do they?
But okay whatever, fine, for the sake of argument, let’s say that “young fans killed” rock music with downloading and streaming. Simmons’ subsequent assertions are every bit as absurd:
“So, we’re gonna play a game. 1958 until 1988 — that’s 30 years. During that time, you got Elvis Presley, the Beatles, [Jimi] Hendrix, the [Rolling] Stones, just thousands of bands. You had [David] Bowie, you had Prince, U2, maybe us in the ’70s, AC/DC, Metallica, and on and on and on. And disco, you had Madonna and Motown — great black music — forever. From 1988 until today, who’s the new Beatles? That’s more than 30 years.”
Judas holy Priest, there’s so much wrong to unpack here.
First of all, it’s super-weird to invoke Motown during a financial discussion because that label’s founder, Berry Gordy, famously screwed his artists out of millions of dollars. I mean, I guess the overall point is that Motown generated that much money, but the fact that the people generating it didn’t get to see a lot of it really goes again Simmons’ point re: more money = more time to create = more good music.
Second of all, it’s SUPER-weird to immediately say “great black music” after mentioning Motown. He doesn’t mention the race of any other artists, and it implies that the current state of the music industry has hurt the quality of music made by black people, which has 1,000% not been the case.
Third of all, the false modesty of saying “maybe us in the ’70s” is nauseating. Like. Literally visit a doctor, have your penis elongated, and go fuck yourself, asshole.
Finally, his statement can basically be summed up as “There has been no great rock music since 1988.” So Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Deftones, Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Slipknot, System of a Down, Stone Temple Pilots, and about a gazillion other bands can all go fuck themselves. Got it.
So what happened in 1988 to cause this abrupt cessation of great rock music? Says Simmons:
“That’s around the time when Napster and all that [illegal downloading] stuff started to [happen].”
Napster founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker were both still in single-digits in 1988, and the vast majority of the world’s population had no idea what the fuck the Internet was. I mean, it would be one thing if Simmons were off by a little bit But it was another twelve years before Lars Ulrich’s famous testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. To put that in terms that Simmons can understand: it’s four more years than the Beatles were together.
So I guess the takeaway here is that Gene Simmons is about ready for his room at the Shady Acres Retirement Home, where he’ll be overseen by a professional staff of caretakers 24/7. We wouldn’t want him to be a danger to himself or others.