Planet Rock's Wyatt conducted an interview with KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons prior to the band's performance at the 2015 edition of the U.K.'s Download festival, which was held last weekend in Donington Park. You can listen to the chat using the widget below.
Asked if he thinks today's artists give up too easily and they "don't wanna be rock stars anymore," Simmons responded: "No, it's really not that. I blame… This is gonna break your hearts… It certainly breaks mine. I blame the fans. Because the fans have decided en masse — in other words, the masses have decided — that they should get free music, download, fileshare… And you're not hurting KISS; we've been around a long time and we make a good living. You're killing the next Elvis and THE BEATLES and the next KISS and the next whoever, because you have to give your music away for free. And who did that? Big corporate entities? No, they didn't do that. Actually, big corporate entities — record companies — gave bands money that they never had to pay back — ever! If the band failed and the records were a complete disaster, the advance money was all [the band's]. What other business would give you that? If you go to a bank and they give you a million dollars, and your business goes under, they don't care it failed; they want their money back."
He continued: "Record companies were a gift from heaven. Yeah, they're greedy, they're this… but they wanna make money just like you do. But they gave you money — millions! And if it wasn't for record companies, there'd be no SEX PISTOLS, there'd be no punk, there'd be no nothing. There would be punk, but it would be in a small club. It would never become huge."
Asked if the music industry today disillusions and disappoints him, Simmons said: "It's not the industry; it's the fans… It's disappointing, because they would prefer not to support a new band. Remember, it doesn't affect [KISS]. It affects the next great band, who won't have a chance. Why? Because the talent isn't out there? It sure is. The fans killed it. They killed the infrastructure. Imagine England existing without the value of the pound, if things were free. You would have chaos."
Simmons previously said that illegal music downloading was largely to blame for the music industry's decline and accused the music industry of not reacting fast enough to curb the problem of illegal file sharing.
Asked in an interview about the effect reality TV shows and digital downloads have had on new artists, Simmons said: "I think it's all good, because the record companies are in chaos, downloading is in chaos. The foxes have been led into the hen house, so people wonder why there's so few chickens. It's because you allowed your kids to go in there and steal the stuff for free, so record companies are dying and new bands don't have a chance. And new bands should get every chance in the world, and if it means 'The X Factor' or 'American Idol' or any other kind of [outlet], give them a chance. Few of them will survive, if any. But the old-fashioned model of a record company that cares about you and spends a lot of money to try to promote you, that's gone. It doesn't affect the big bands. It doesn't affect my living. We do a hundred shows, and there's more money there than some Third-World countries. But it does intrinsically hurt new bands. You know, the next Elvis [Presley], or the next BEATLES, is gonna have a very hard time starting out today."
Simmons also spoke to U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine about how music piracy is destroying the music industry — and how fans will ultimately suffer for it.
"I still think [downloading] is a crime," he said. "The sad part is that the fans are the ones who are killing the thing they love: great music. For fuck's sake, you're not giving the next great band a chance. How much have we lost through illegal downloading? It's certainly millions. I don't think it's tens of millions, but it's certainly millions. But so much of what we do with the licensing and the merchandising and all that… we do alright!"
While speaking at the MIPCOM convention in Cannes, France in October 2010, Simmons said that harsher punishments must be given to those caught downloading music illegally.
"Make sure your brand is protected," Simmons insisted. "Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don't let anybody cross that line."
The rocker continued by saying that lawsuits against illegal file-sharers should have happened sooner.
"The music industry was asleep at the wheel," he said. "And [they] didn't have the balls to sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded material. And so now we're left with hundreds of thousands of people without jobs. There's no industry."