Gene Simmons Says Sue Your Fans, Take Their Homes; So Why Hasn't He?

from the put-up-or-shut-up dept

Kiss' Gene Simmons apparently was bored of not getting enough coverage in the blogworld lately, and so he's cooked up another "controversy." He does this every year or so, making a big stink about "piracy" or new business models, and I'm pretty sure at this point that he only says this stuff because he knows people will write about it. In 2008 he claimed that Radiohead was destroying the music industry with its "pay what you want" experiment -- even though it made the band more money than all their previous releases. In 2007, he told Billboard Magazine that the labels should be suing more people:
The record industry doesn't have a f*cking clue how to make money. It's only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there's no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work."
Of course, the evidence suggests Simmons is totally wrong, but apparently he hasn't learned anything in the past three years or he doesn't care. Kiss keeps selling concert tickets at an amazing clip, so he can say whatever ridiculous thing he wants and he still makes more money. So he's basically repeated those claims from 2007 (found via Hypebot), by saying that fans should be sued until they lose their homes:
"It is a business. You have a fiduciary duty to your own butt to make sure you maximise any potential and minimise any exposure,"
He's right about that, but perhaps confused about long-term vs. short-term maximization. You can maximize revenue in the short term at the expense of long-term revenue, and one good way to do that is to smack around your fans. But that didn't stop Simmons:
Make sure your brand is protected, be litigious, sue anybody -- take their homes, their cars, DON'T LET ANYBODY CROSS THAT LINE.
These are his fans he's talking about. While he's got fans to spare, he may discover one day that suggesting bands sue their fans isn't actually a good long-term strategy.
"The music industry was asleep at the wheel and didn't have the balls to go and sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded a clip," Simmons roared, "so now we're left with hundreds of people without jobs. I have a record company."
Not quite sure where that final non-sequitur came from (sounds sort of like "I'm on a horse.") Either way, he's confusing the record industry with the music industry. The recording industry did, in fact, try to sue every college kid who downloaded stuff. And it ended up costing them a ton of money, educating many more people about file sharing, and driving people and systems further underground. And, while all that was happening the music industry (not the recording industry) continued to grow at a pretty massive rate, despite his claims. I'm on a horse.
He illustrated these already-colourful points with a handful of stories: one about a captain who's told he has a small hole in his ship (will he cork it now, or sink before arrival to the New World?), and another about a farmer who lets a cute fox run away with an egg. The fox tells all the other foxes, who come to ravage and steal and kill all the chickens, after which point the farmer's wife divorces her witless husband and the children all hate him.
Um. Okay. Story time from Gene Simmons. I can tell stories too, except mine are actually about real people who figured out that attacking or suing your fans was a bad idea, and actually putting in place smarter business models made sense.

But here's the reason why I think Simmons is making all this up for the attention and the press. He notes that he has a record company, and he screams about the industry not having the balls to sue people. So... um... Gene... where are your thousands of lawsuits against file sharers? After all, I would imagine that KISS songs are downloaded all the time. What's with all the talk and no action? Where are all the lawsuits that drove kids out of their homes and cars? Oh right. They didn't happen.

And, in the meantime, as mentioned, Simmons is making a ton of money selling concert tickets. The article notes $400 million in concert tickets sold in the last 8 years, and that's only a tiny fraction of the KISS business behemoth, which sells all sorts of scarcities that people want to buy. In other words, Simmons (who wastes no opportunity to talk about what a brilliant business man he is) has actually figured out how to thrive in a world where free copying is rampant, by selling stuff that can't be copied for free. He should be one of the poster children for showing how you build a business that "competes with free." It's just sad that he either doesn't realize why his business worked, or he wants to mislead everyone about it.

Anyway, you can watch the video below of this talk. The whole talk is about 40 min but I've queued up to the parts quoted here:

Filed Under: business models, fans, gene simmons, lawsuits, music industry


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  1. identicon
    MrWilson, 6 Oct 2010 @ 11:20am

    Nice metaphor

    ...only, the cute fox is actually your fan and if he sees you suing his friends, he sure as hell isn't going to buy your eggs. He'll get his eggs from that smarter farmer that the wife left you for because that farmer is smart enough to adapt to the market rather than sticking his fingers in his ears and saying, "this is the way we've always done it, why should we change?"

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