Gene Simmons says “young fans” bear responsibility for the death of rock: “You killed the thing that you love”

Simmons linked young fans directly to poor digital revenue for smaller bands.

Kiss' Gene Simmons

Image: Rune Hellestad-Corbis / Getty

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Gene Simmons of Kiss has added to his numerous comments on what he perceives to be the death of rock music, having now placed blame on “young fans” for killing the genre.

Speaking to the Q104.3 radio station, Simmons was asked to elaborate on his original “rock is dead” comments, which he initially made in 2014 to his son Nick for Esquire, and then doubled down on last month. Q104.3 host Jonathan Clarke asked if Simmons meant rock was dead in terms of radio play or streaming, to which he replied: “In all ways.”

“And the culprits are the young fans,” he added. “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.”

Simmons seems to be describing streaming rather than digital downloads. Streaming payouts are much closer to the “one-hundredth or one-thousandth of one penny” as Simmons describes. As of 2020, it’s estimated artists receive $0.00318 per stream from Spotify, with rates varying from different streaming platforms – but never exceeding a handful of cents per stream, and often landing much lower than that.

He said of the difficulty to make a living off streaming numbers alone: “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.”

In the UK, there is currently an ongoing inquiry occurring into the economics of streaming. Musicians were among those giving evidence of poor pay from the services, including Elbow’s Guy Garvey, who noted that musicians “can’t afford to pay rent.”

Mercury-nominated musician Nadine Shah noted that she had been forced to move back in with her parents because “earnings from my streaming are not significant enough to keep the wolf away from the door.”

Simmons’ latest comments, and the investigation into streaming, are contingent on the impact of COVID-19. Especially for smaller rock bands, playing live had previously been a much larger source of revenue than streaming payouts, but it has now been cut off almost entirely thanks to the pandemic.

While Simmons also pointed out that young fans are to blame for small payouts for downloads, it’s important to note the presence of things such as Bandcamp Friday, a monthly event where the music hosting service and storefront waives its revenue to support musicians, as well as the resurgence of vinyl sales, both of which pay bands much more than streaming. For example, if one listener purchases a single track from an artist on Bandcamp Friday for $5, that’s the same as that listener streaming that same song over 1,500 times. The event isn’t limited to a small corner of underground artists, either. On the second Bandcamp Friday (1 May 2020), fans paid artists $7.1 million for music and merch.

You can see Simmons’ full interview below.

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