Did Bruce Springsteen or Elvis ever make house calls to fans?
We didn’t think so.
One rock icon has decided to reach out directly to fans, and knock on their doors: that’s Gene Simmons. The catch? If you cough up $50,000 for his newest piece of merchandise, “The Vault.”
Containing 150 unreleased songs, the 17-kilogram box of ten CDs also includes a Gene Simmons doll, a commemorative coin and a photo book of the snaked-tongued rocker.
He’s said he’s spending his own money flying out to wherever the fans live, to deliver the goods himself.
Of course, he’s no stranger to peddling product inspired by the music.
Those who are familiar with KISS – the music group he founded – know full well that the band, as is popularly said, is as much a brand.
Since KISS launched in 1973, it has not only recorded twenty albums that sold 100 million units but launched a succession of tchotchkes that apparently has no limits.
What is said to number in the area of five thousand licensed and merchandise items, they include credit cards, pinball machines, a comic book, action figures, condoms, caskets, and so on.
Simmons, 68, has ensured the marketing machine hums, as much as fans hum the music.
Perhaps his business model was prescient, at a time when increasingly fewer are actually purchasing musicians’ work.
“The record industry, as a whole, is a very sick animal. And that’s not because aliens landed, or crooks and the mafia took over, or foreign countries destroyed the record industry,” he tells Pursuit.
“Kids no longer wanted to pay for music, whether it’s making copies of the songs or downloading. So, record companies more and more mean less and less. There is almost no record industry that I recognize that exists today. The record companies that exist today are hemorrhaging.”
This, he says, has far-reaching consequences than just artists not being paid for their creations.
“There’s always great talent. But when you had a record company, there was somebody who was there, who enabled you to quit your day job and commit full-time to your art. And once Napster and file sharing came in, you couldn’t make enough money with your music. So, you had to live in your mother’s basement, and you had to go and work for a living and do music on the side because you couldn’t afford to do it full-time. And when you can’t afford to do anything full time, you can’t be good at it.”
Meanwhile, when he’s not issuing pricey box sets or ranting against the Man, he’s the author of seven bestselling books, including the most recent, On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power.
“The truth is, if you engage in behavior that doesn’t make your schmeckel bigger, you’re an idiot,” the near-septuagenarian tells Pursuit of the new book.
“It’s your responsibility, if you want to become more powerful, to get rid of the losers, the bloodsuckers who will suck the life right out of you – by the way, happily – and then make excuses.”
Well, then, who wouldn’t want a bigger schmeckel?