KC Shoen: CEO and Artist
Letter Two On Gene's Site
These two links amounts to the discussion I had with Gene about the industry back in November of ’07 on his website. It is important to read as to understand my angle, and why I stand by my contention about him:
Gene Simmons doesn’t know shit about today’s music industry.
I now understand why Bob Lefsetz comes after him on his blogsite with such accentuated vitriol, and, to be honest, I have withheld criticizing the very man whose business acumen I highly respect.
But I don't respect the manner in which Gene actively engage me in the aforementioned discussion, only to withdraw in silence after I called him to task about his ignorance, and his indirect assumption that my label, ShoEnTeL Music, equates to running a 'charity', not a business.
And as a musician, the music of Kiss itself I have always found to be rather overly-wrought with simple chord delineations, garage-style antics, adolescent anthems, and preaching the repetitive theme of Rockin’, Rollin, and Fuckin’. Substance was never a priority: money and sex were. The nuance in this is I still love AC/DC, and their themes are consistent in that same vein. The difference, however, is ‘DC has an important element that is wholly lacking from The Simmons/ Kiss’ repertoire of pyrotechnics, demoniac make-up and vaudevillian showmanship:
They have actual talent.
And the many decades that have passed since both bands have been in existence, AC/DC holds another talisman over the heads of Gene Simmons/ Kiss Inc.: Relevance. Nearly 35 years since “Jailbreak ‘74”, AC/DC is still putting out new material to this day, and still garnering new fans, continuously augmenting the original, aging core.
Kiss, however, hasn’t managed to muster material of any new heat since 1983. Animalize was the last album that brought any new fans onboard to "discover" them. Since then, it’s been an entire rehashing of old catalog familiarity to keep that machine going, alongside the touring in full costume regalia that has been in regularity since 1996. Even at the time of this article, they are currently on a world tour (May ’08), as the fully made-up version that dominated the rock scene during the 1970’s.
This alone speaks volumes as to the mind and culture of Simmons himself: Kiss is but a product, much like Coca-Cola and Frito Lay. Unchanging. The rabid fancore is reflective of this, as there seems to be the need recapture the old ‘glory’ that was in vogue during those formative years. And they don’t want their band to tamper with the legacy by releasing anything new or evolved that would in any way stray from that sentimentality. It would wreak havoc to the senses to accept anything outside of “Kiss Alive”, “Destroyer”, or “Double Platinum”: progression be damned
Gene Simmons in the past has complained to various media outlets that “I can’t sell a million copies anymore in today’s music market”, and he's right. He can’t..but it is not due to illegal downloading nor the depreciative value of the music itself as he has surreptitiously and repetitively contends . It is because Gene himself can’t do it. And beyond the expansive catalog, nor could Kiss. Why? Because of one other element alongside talent is needed to achieve such ends:
And musically, he and Kiss possess zero of that.
Gene’s last solo release is evidence of this, when, in 2004, he, alongside his new protégé, BAG, dropped his first solo effort since 1978, called ‘Asshole’. Though the production was tight, and the music somewhat affable, the critics killed it, (the worst rebuke was AllMusic, stating ,."Everyone else who is merely curious should wait till it hits the cutout bins, get the edited version for the sheep bleats, and be happy that Kim Deal and Shannon Tweed are getting paid.") It bombed straight out the gate. Failure is something the egocentric Chaim Witz is not accustomed to, and since then, Simmons has not really broke out commercially with anything new, lest you count his seemingly sheepish attempt at marketing a two-song CD enclosed in his "Money, Sex, Kiss" book as a proper ‘commercial’ release.
Gene’s not an idiot, however, but he is in complete denial about the New Reality of the Music Industry: unwilling to see past the illegal filesharing which he seems to think culminates it entirely. It doesn’t. Gene’s problem is not that the industry’s dead, it has merely changed, and he is ‘dead’ to it.
He is not the only cronky aging Baby Boomer that has this latitude. Legendary producer and musician Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, and Kiss as well) has echoed similar sentiments. I have personally, in my own business dealings, seen this up-close and personal with such archetypes. It’s what I like to call ‘The Bitter Old Codger’ syndrome: the dis-allowance of change they can’t understand, and bitter that they, in their elderly state, can’t ‘play the game’ in the same manner at which they were accustomed to in their more successful younger years. Change has left them behind, as it is easier to rest on what you have done, than to attack it in a new way and take the risk in re-entering the music market when you’ve been out of circulation.
Change is harder when your old, especially when you get too comfortable with the way things were.
This is the last correspondence I sent him which was in response to ‘Letter 2’:
"Well written, but misguided. In simple terms, IF YOU want to put YOUR STUFF (and that means music you own) on the internet for free. You have that right. Ideally and legally, no one else has the right to: share files, copy songs or send them to anyone without (a) getting approval of the owner of the material and/or (b) paying for that privilege. Last time I checked, it was called the MUSIC BUSINESS...not the MUSIC FOR FREE BUSINESS. And, it's not a charity. It's an enterprise."
Please pardon my brazenness and confusion, but what the fuck are you on about? Amazing how you have colluded my business with 'giving music away'. Let’s review briefly my points that I have previously stated, because it's obvious you've missed it...
"(music)file-sharing, .... is illegal. Period."
" Truthfully, the real damage to the recording industry brought about by' person-to-person' file sharing is to Artist's catalogs."
“As far as mp3 downloads, I'd rather pay .69 -.99 cents for a quality track I know will sound good, then illegally download the same track that might sound shitty, atop of possibly containing a virus that will bugger my already-terminally-ill PC”
"... As an unknown Artist, I'd rather offer a decent 'giveaway' that fans could have for their own. I also want to offer them little 'perks' now and again for their loyalty..."
" I don't have any misalignment with you about illegal downloads"
".... And I choose to be at the forefront..much like you have done..but in my OWN way...."
And I did state that filesharing will remain a part of The New Reality. But this doesn't imply that I wholly sanction it, nor that I am going to turn over my entire catalog for free. I would be a complete moron to be in the business of music only to give it all away just to gain traction. It not necessary and is counterproductive. And, through all my correspondence, I never once suggested that this is what I am doing. My exact stance, in as far as my progress was this:
"..This internet label I own IS gaining TRACTION. It's still early, but the momentum is there. My music is gaining interest..and sales. Again, it is STILL early."
From any of this, where did you get the impression that what I am doing is connotative to 'charity'? Would I allow a free download on occasion for free as a means of promotion? You bet. Particularly, if fans have been proactive in BUYING and SUPPORTING what I'm doing. It’s much similar, in many respects, to giving free merch away at a concert.
I have gathered two dynamics with you in as far as the subject is concerned
1) Beyond your definitive stance on internet piracy (which I concur), you are overwhelming ignorant about the current status of the music business in cyberspace.
2) As ignorance does breed contempt, you are also unwillingly to absorb the nuances of this subject beyond what you ‘see’. There is no presence of a ‘360’ view, for you have not researched. Hence why your response is so categorically out of context.
….which I have found incredibly irritating about your recent comments. Since you haven’t looked into any of the information I’ve offered to you, lemme fill you in on what you DON”T know…
1) LEGALLY downloaded music files (i.e. PURCHASED), exceeded “plastic” CD sales for the first time in music history, in 2006. As of September this year, it is estimated this trend will possibly double by the close of 2007, according to SoundScan.
2) “Independent’ music labels garnered 28.4% of world-wide revenue in sales in 2005. It is the first time in industry history that the ‘independent’ outpaced the ‘Big 4’ (SonyBMG, WMG, Universal, and EMI) on a one-to-one per capita basis. It has been projected by various business analysts that the ‘independent’ sector’s portion could crest to 40% by 2010. Mergers/Acquisitions, changing consumer tastes in music, the advantage of personal music catalog customization utilizing the popular iPod mp3 player, as well as illegal filesharing, are the indicated factors.
3) The recent multi-million dollar 10-year contractual agreement between Madonna and Live Nation inked in Oct of this year, is this first time an Artist with that level of ‘brand recognition’ in the music marketplace has waived their ongoing contract with a ‘major’ (Warner Bros. since 1982), in favor of a more lucrative, independent contract that involves multi-level merchandising and digital distribution of both live and studio-recorded material exclusively through the internet. It sets the possibility of lesser-known, emerging talent to enjoy a broader level of exposure not seen previously, and that live events now take on a greater roll than ever before.
As far as being ‘misguided’ is concerned, your lack of insight and vision has made YOU more intolerant of change, and has caused you (at least with me), to appear trapped by ‘tunnel vision’. You seem to despise what you can not fully understand. Maybe this time, even if you disagree, you can keep it IN CONTEXT. Piracy is only ONE dynamic of MANY that are currently driving the continuous change in the industry. Not the ONLY one
I have also the proof that you don’t know shit about what I’m doing, for if you had investigated it, you would’ve found I have a fully operating digital store on my website, and the fact that that my company logo contains the FULL name of the label:
“ShoEnTeL Music ENTERPRISES”
His response? Nothing.
I am one who likes to engage people on such issues, and I myself don't mind standing corrected, especially if I come away learning something I hadn't known before. My biggest peave in regards to 'WhutDoYaMean Gene' was his obvious withdrawal from the discussion, which he willfully took part. And in the following months since then, I have tried to re-engage him, and he has since not posted ANYTHING of my multiple correspondences since.It is an obvious snub.
It is also obvious he has nothing of any value to offer to this, and does not like being cornered, in particular, when he's made to look an ass on his own website.
And for all his success with product endorsement, the merchandising of the Kiss franchise, and reality television, Old Man Simmons is a stodgy old codger when it comes to the very industry that made him. An industry that has gone through some miraculous changes. Of which I'll close this article with a line quote from Ben Folds:
"The 'WizMan' will never fit you like like the 'wizkid' did/
So why you gotta act like you know when don't know?/
It's O.K. if you don't know everything..."
And the title of the song from which this quote comes from, encapsulates this whole sordid mess of ignorance, assumption, and egocentrics in regards to this elderly yutz.
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