Gene Simmons has once again said that rock is dead, insisting that newer artists will never get the chance at success that bands like KISS did.
While rock ‘n’ roll has been king of the music world for decades, in the past few years, it’s been unseated by the growing popularity of hip-hop. This has caused many pundits to proclaim the genre “dead” from an industry perspective, noting that it has been eclipsed in all measures by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.
Simmons spoke about rock’s supposed diminishing status during a new interview with Jonathan Clarke of New York’s Q104.3 radio station. Asked if he meant his original “rock is dead” comment in terms of radio airplay or streaming numbers, Gene said: “In all ways. 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.”
He continued: “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 [KISS] 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. That’s around the time when Napster and all that [illegal downloading] stuff started to [happen]. 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.”
He then repeated: “Who’s the new BEATLES?”
The “rock is dead” argument has popped up again and again throughout the years, including in 2018 after MAROON 5 lead singer Adam Levine told Variety magazine that “rock music is nowhere, really. I don’t know where it is,” he said. “If it’s around, no one’s invited me to the party. All of the innovation and the incredible things happening in music are in hip-hop. It’s better than everything else. Hip-hop is weird and avant-garde and flawed and real, and that’s why people love it.”
A few years ago, Simmons told Esquire magazine that “rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. 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.”
A number of hard rock and heavy metal musicians have weighed in on the topic in a variety of interviews over the last several years, with some digging a little deeper into Simmons‘s full remarks and others just glossing over the headline.